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The consistently growing volatility of governments in the Middle East is beginning to motivate Western governments to seek out natural resources from elsewhere. This gives energy companies with holdings outside of the region an advantage in the future, as more of the world's energy production moves to companies with interests in South America, Norway, Canada, the United States and Asia. As political tensions continue to grow and relations break down between Iran and Western nations that include the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, the prices for oil and natural gas will be greatly affected in favor of energy companies that are perfectly poised to benefit. Which of the following energy companies are positioned for long term success and will provide the greatest benefit to income investors seeking residual and compoundable returns over a long period?

Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) is in a position that puts it at an advantage when compared to the rest of the world's oil super majors that allows for it to compete for resources effectively while other super majors struggle to locate large wells that are not already owned by governments. Many of the government owned resources in the world are being held until energy giants are forced to pay their high asking prices in order to tap into them, which is forcing the super majors to compete for resources in deep waters or oil sands. Exxon Mobil is in the greatest position to benefit due to its commitment over the last decade to explore cleaner and more efficient energy and the means to harvest it.

Exxon Mobil stock has grown from $77 per share to $86 over three year and provides a quarterly dividend of $0.47 per share, which was increased from $0.44 in the first quarter of 2011. The dividend provides about a 2% yield, which isn't extraordinary, but this is a safe and dependable company in an unpredictable market that I believe has the chance to show increased stock value and a higher dividend in the future. I see this as a great long term position to take if you are patient and able to wait for long term results.

Spectra Energy Partners (NYSE:SEP) is a master limited partnership set up for Spectra Energy (NYSE:SE) after it became an offshoot of Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) in 2006. The company owns interests in many pipeline assets in the Gulf of Mexico and its parent, Spectra Energy, is one of the largest natural gas pipeline companies on the North American continent. Spectra Energy Partners has increased its dividend half a cent per quarter over the last year and is currently paying out at $0.475 at a ratio of 1.19 at the end of 2011. In previous years, this ratio was much smaller, and I believe that this company has the assets to continue providing the dividend in the future, which currently provides a yield of nearly 6%. I believe this is a worthy buy that is liable to provide continued growth over time.

Global Partners, LP (NYSE:GLP) acts as an energy middleman, purchasing refined oil from around the world and reselling it commercially and through wholesale. Its quarterly dividend has remained constant at $0.50 per share over the last four quarters. However, it is now paying out at a ratio of 6.25 while its profits begin to dwindle, making me question the health of Global Partners over the long term. I would wait to see if the company is able to support its dividend through growth before taking a position here, and would look elsewhere for the time being.

China Chemical & Petroleum Corporation, otherwise known as Sinopec (NYSE:SNP) provides 50% of China's crude oil output through 34 refineries, making it one of the largest refiners of oil in the world. While this company has great growth potential, it only pays out a biannual dividend, making it less attractive to income investors who would use the dividend to compound their gains through reinvestment. It also only offers a 2% yield, which makes it less attractive than Exxon Mobil, which provides its dividend quarterly. I think that there are some better choices than Sinopec to consider in the energy sector, even though Sinopec has quite a bit of growth potential over time.

Statoil (NYSE:STO) pulls the majority of its resources from the Norwegian Continental Shelf, but is looking for other international interests to help facilitate its growth. Its stock rose from $17 per share to $25 over the past three years and its biannual dividend has risen over its last four payouts from $0.44 to $0.97 per share. While I would prefer the ability to compound my returns quarterly, the growing dividend makes this an attractive stock to me and I believe it will produce greater returns in the future.

Spectra Energy Partners pays the highest sustainable dividend in this group, but I believe Exxon Mobil is the most stable company on the list and has the opportunity for steady and continued growth. Statoil is also attractive because its yield is currently around 4% and it looks like it will only provide greater returns over time.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: 3 Oil & Gas Dividend Stocks To Consider, 2 To Avoid