Once upon a time the Seven Sisters controlled 85% of the world's oil reserves.
The Sisters was a consortium of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, Gulf Oil, Standard Oil of California, Texaco, Royal Dutch Shell, Standard Oil of New Jersey and Standard Oil of New York.
Now there's Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-B) and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company is BP. Gulf Oil, Standard Oil of California and Texaco are Chevron (CVX) and Standard Oil of New Jersey and Standard Oil of New York merged to form ExxonMobil (XOM).
These companies discovered every drop of oil that is being produced today by Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq, and are responsible for most of the new giant oil fields in the arctic and deep offshore environments.
Exxon Mobil and Chevron are the surviving American Sisters and are the most successful major integrated international oil companies in the world unlike the thousands of independent oil companies who are not integrated nor operate internationally.
They are the only American integrated energy companies that compete on the world stage. They explore, produce and market fuels and petrochemicals worldwide but most important they are sought after partners to participate in the exploration projects in yet-to-be-discovered giant oil fields overseas, the deep water and arctic because of their financial and technical resources.
Most independent oil companies sell the oil they produce to a refinery or in the case of Valero (VLO) buy their crude oil and refine it for marketing at their gas stations. They don't have any reserves and in some cases find it cheaper to buy imported gasoline even though no new refinery has been built in the United States in three decades while new ones are being built overseas in places like Saudi Arabia to supply the gasoline for the United States, China and India the ramifications of which I plan to discuss in a future article.
Marathon Oil (MRO) is betting its future on U.S. shale production and is a great short-term idea, and because it is a mini-integrated oil company with international operations you have a hedge, however, Chevron and ExxonMobil have the financial resources and a timing strategy to be a major player in the Canadian Tar Sands and the Bakken Shale but because they are major integrated oil companies they will survive a drop in oil prices, as was the case in the 1980s when oil plummeted from $40 to $10, while most of the independent oil companies won't.
An investor should note that a drop in oil prices below $50 would make the production from the Canadian Tar Sands and the Bakken Shale unprofitable, which would be a disaster for a company whose primary production was there.
ExxonMobil and Chevron are the best choices for a long-term energy investor because these international companies have their headquarters in the United States, have almost 40 billion proved barrels of oil reserves between them worth $2.5 trillion at today's prices and in addition, combined revenues last year of $630 billion, net profits of $70 billion, paid their shareholders a 3% dividend and their shares trade at a PE of less than 10% but most important of all, they have the financial and technical resources to replace their reserves from future discoveries.