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The Seven Sisters of the petroleum industry is a term coined by an Italian entrepreneur, Enrico Mattei, that refers to seven oil companies that dominated mid 20th century oil production, refining, and distribution.

Origin and makeup

The Seven Sisters consisted of three companies formed by the breakup by the U.S. Government of Standard Oil, along with four other major oil companies. With their dominance of oil production, refinement and distribution, they were able to take advantage of the rapidly increasing demand for oil and turn immense profits.

Being well organized and able to negotiate as a cartel, the Seven Sisters were able to have their way with most Third World oil producers. It was only when the Arab states began to gain control over oil prices and production, mainly through the formation of OPEC, beginning in 1960 and really gaining power by the 1970s, that the Seven Sisters' influence declined.

The Seven Sisters were the following companies:
  1. Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso), which merged with Mobil to form ExxonMobil.
  2. Royal Dutch Shell (Dutch 60% / British 40%). Merged in 2005.
  3. Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) (British). This later became Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), then British Petroleum, and then BP Amoco following a merger with Amoco (which in turn was formerly Standard Oil of Indiana). It is now known solely by the initials BP.
  4. Standard Oil Co. of New York ("Socony"). This later became Mobil, which merged with Exxon to form ExxonMobil.
  5. Standard Oil of California ("Socal"). This became Chevron, then, upon merging with Texaco, ChevronTexaco. It has since dropped the 'Texaco' suffix, returning to Chevron.
  6. Gulf Oil. In 1985, most of Gulf became part of Chevron, with smaller parts becoming part of BP and Cumberland Farms, in what was, at that time, the largest merger in world history. A network of stations in the northeastern United States still bears this name.
  7. Texaco. Merged with Chevron in 2001. The merged company was known for a time as ChevronTexaco, but in 2005, changed its name back to Chevron. Texaco remains a Chevron brand name.

As of 2005, the surviving companies are ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP, now members of the "supermajors" group.

The "New Seven Sisters"

On 11 March 2007, the Financial Times identified the "New Seven Sisters", the most influential and mainly state-owned national oil and gas companies from countries outside the OECD. They are:
  1. Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabiamarker)
  2. JSC Gazprom (Russiamarker)
  3. CNPC (Chinamarker)
  4. NIOC (Iranmarker)
  5. PDVSA (Venezuelamarker)
  6. Petrobras (Brazilmarker)
  7. Petronas (Malaysiamarker)

The FT article notes that Pemex of Mexicomarker is excluded from such a list.

The term Big Oil, or Supermajor, is used to describe nowadays the biggest and richest non-state owned companies: ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, Total and ConocoPhillips. Since the 7 sisters are parts of these companies (Esso and Mobil as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Texaco and Gulf Oil as Chevron, Shell and BP), the term is much more used than the Financial Times "New Seven Sisters".

Further reading

  • Anthony Sampson. The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped. New York: Viking Press, 1975. ISBN 0-553-20449-1.
  • Daniel Yergin. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991
  • Nico Perrone. Obiettivo Mattei: Petrolio, Stati Uniti e politica dell' ENI (Target Mattei: Oil, United States and ENI Policy). Rome: Gamberetti, 1995
  • Nico Perrone. Enrico Mattei. Bologna: il Mulino, 2001

See also


  1. The new Seven Sisters: oil and gas giants dwarf western rivals, by Carola Hoyos, Financial Times. 11 March 2007
  2. The new Seven Sisters: oil and gas giants dwarf western rivals, by Carola Hoyos, Financial Times. 11 March 2007

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