The Largest Oil & Gas Companies in 2021
The pandemic brought strong headwinds for the oil and gas industry, and oil majors felt the blow.
Global primary energy consumption fell by 4.5% relative to 2019 and oil demand declined by 9%. For a brief period in April 2020, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures went subzero, marking the largest one-day price plunge since 1983.
Some expected the demand crash to have a lasting impact on the industry, but it’s safe to say that 2021 has proved otherwise.
Oil Resurfaces as Energy Crisis Deepens
The world is facing a shortage of energy, and peak winter is yet to hit most parts of the globe.
Pandemic-induced supply restraints from producers, in addition to rising energy demand from recovering economies, have sent nations scrambling for petroleum products. Consequently, oil prices are resurfacing to pre-pandemic levels.
As of today, prices of WTI crude futures are at their highest levels in the last five years at over $80 per barrel. Furthermore, U.S. natural gas prices hit a 7-year high of $6.5 per million British thermal units (BTU) earlier this month. Elsewhere, European benchmark natural gas futures have surged 1,300% since May 2020.
Of course, the largest oil and gas companies are riding this wave of resurgence. Using data from CompaniesMarketCap.com, the above infographic ranks the top 20 oil and gas companies by market cap as of October 7, 2021.
Big Oil: The Largest Oil and Gas Companies by Market Cap
Given that we often see their logos at gas stations, the largest oil and gas companies are generally quite well-known. Here’s how they stack up by market cap:
|Rank||Company||Market Cap* (US$, billions)||Country|
|1||Saudi Aramco||$1,979||Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦|
|15||Duke Energy||$78.08||U.S. 🇺🇸|
|17||Southern Company||$66.64||U.S. 🇺🇸|
|20||Enterprise Products||$50.37||U.S. 🇺🇸|
*As of October 7, 2021.
Saudi Aramco is one of the five companies in the trillion-dollar club as the world’s third-largest company by market cap. Its market cap is nearly equivalent to the combined valuation of the other 19 companies on the list. But what makes this figure even more astounding is the fact that the company went public less than two years ago in December 2019.
However, the oil giant’s valuation doesn’t come out of the blue. Aramco was the world’s most profitable company in 2019, raking in $88 billion in net income. Apple took this title in 2020, but high oil prices could propel Aramco back to the top in 2021.
Although Standard Oil was split up a century ago, its legacy lives on today in the form of Big Oil. ExxonMobil and Chevron—the second and third-largest companies on the list—are direct descendants of Standard Oil. Furthermore, Shell and BP both acquired assets from Standard Oil’s original portfolio on the road to becoming global oil giants.
The geographical distribution of the largest oil and gas companies shows how global the industry is. The top 20 oil and gas companies come from 10 different countries. The U.S. hosts six of them, while four are headquartered in Russia. The other 10 are located in one of China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, or Europe.
Big Oil, Bigger Emissions
Due to the nature of fossil fuels, the biggest oil and gas companies are also among the biggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters.
In fact, Saudi Aramco is the world’s largest corporate GHG emitter and accounts for over 4% of the entire world’s emissions since 1965. Chevron, Gazprom, ExxonMobil, BP, and several other oil giants join Aramco on the list of top 20 GHG emitters between 1965 and 2017.
Shifting towards a low-carbon future will undoubtedly require the world to rely less on fossil fuels. But completely shunning the oil and gas industry isn’t possible at the moment, as shown by the global energy crisis.
Rare Earth Elements: Where in the World Are They?
Rare earth elements are the critical ingredients for a greener economy, making their reserves increasingly valuable to global supply chains.
Rare Earths Elements: Where in the World Are They?
Rare earth elements are a group of metals that are critical ingredients for a greener economy, and the location of the reserves for mining are increasingly important and valuable.
This infographic features data from the United States Geological Society (USGS) which reveals the countries with the largest known reserves of rare earth elements (REEs).
What are Rare Earth Metals?
REEs, also called rare earth metals or rare earth oxides, or lanthanides, are a set of 17 silvery-white soft heavy metals.
The 17 rare earth elements are: lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), lutetium (Lu), scandium (Sc), and yttrium (Y).
Scandium and yttrium are not part of the lanthanide family, but end users include them because they occur in the same mineral deposits as the lanthanides and have similar chemical properties.
The term “rare earth” is a misnomer as rare earth metals are actually abundant in the Earth’s crust. However, they are rarely found in large, concentrated deposits on their own, but rather among other elements instead.
Rare Earth Elements, How Do They Work?
Most rare earth elements find their uses as catalysts and magnets in traditional and low-carbon technologies. Other important uses of rare earth elements are in the production of special metal alloys, glass, and high-performance electronics.
Alloys of neodymium (Nd) and samarium (Sm) can be used to create strong magnets that withstand high temperatures, making them ideal for a wide variety of mission critical electronics and defense applications.
|End-use||% of 2019 Rare Earth Demand|
|Glass Polishing Powder and Additives||13%|
|Metallurgy and Alloys||8%|
|Ceramics, Pigments and Glazes||5%|
The strongest known magnet is an alloy of neodymium with iron and boron. Adding other REEs such as dysprosium and praseodymium can change the performance and properties of magnets.
Hybrid and electric vehicle engines, generators in wind turbines, hard disks, portable electronics and cell phones require these magnets and elements. This role in technology makes their mining and refinement a point of concern for many nations.
For example, one megawatt of wind energy capacity requires 171 kg of rare earths, a single U.S. F-35 fighter jet requires about 427 kg of rare earths, and a Virginia-class nuclear submarine uses nearly 4.2 tonnes.
Global Reserves of Rare Earth Minerals
China tops the list for mine production and reserves of rare earth elements, with 44 million tons in reserves and 140,000 tons of annual mine production.
While Vietnam and Brazil have the second and third most reserves of rare earth metals with 22 million tons in reserves and 21 million tons, respectively, their mine production is among the lowest of all the countries at only 1,000 tons per year each.
|Country||Mine Production 2020||Reserves||% of Total Reserves|
While the United States has 1.5 million tons in reserves, it is largely dependent on imports from China for refined rare earths.
Ensuring a Global Supply
In the rare earth industry, China’s dominance has been no accident. Years of research and industrial policy helped the nation develop a superior position in the market, and now the country has the ability to control production and the global availability of these valuable metals.
This tight control of the supply of these important metals has the world searching for their own supplies. With the start of mining operations in other countries, China’s share of global production has fallen from 92% in 2010 to 58%< in 2020. However, China has a strong foothold in the supply chain and produced 85% of the world’s refined rare earths in 2020.
China awards production quotas to only six state-run companies:
- China Minmetals Rare Earth Co
- Chinalco Rare Earth & Metals Co
- Guangdong Rising Nonferrous
- China Northern Rare Earth Group
- China Southern Rare Earth Group
- Xiamen Tungsten
As the demand for REEs increases, the world will need tap these reserves. This graphic could provide clues as to the next source of rare earth elements.
Mapped: Solar Power by Country in 2021
In 2020, solar power saw its largest-ever annual capacity expansion at 127 gigawatts. Here’s a snapshot of solar power capacity by country.
Mapped: Solar Power by Country in 2021
The world is adopting renewable energy at an unprecedented pace, and solar power is leading the way.
Despite a 4.5% fall in global energy demand in 2020, renewable energy technologies showed promising progress. While the growth in renewables was strong across the board, solar power led from the front with 127 gigawatts installed in 2020, its largest-ever annual capacity expansion.
The above infographic uses data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to map solar power capacity by country in 2021. This includes both solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power capacity.
The Solar Power Leaderboard
From the Americas to Oceania, countries in virtually every continent (except Antarctica) added more solar to their mix last year. Here’s a snapshot of solar power capacity by country at the beginning of 2021:
|Country||Installed capacity, megawatts||Watts* per capita||% of world total|
|South Korea 🇰🇷||14,575||217||2.0%|
|United Kingdom 🇬🇧||13,563||200||1.9%|
|South Africa 🇿🇦||5,990||44||0.8%|
|United Arab Emirates 🇦🇪||2,539||185||0.4%|
|Czech Republic 🇨🇿||2,073||194||0.3%|
|El Salvador 🇸🇻||429||66||0.1%|
|Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦||409||12||0.1%|
|Dominican Republic 🇩🇴||370||34||0.1%|
|New Zealand 🇳🇿||142||29||0.02%|
|World total 🌎||713,970||83||100.0%|
*1 megawatt = 1,000,000 watts.
China is the undisputed leader in solar installations, with over 35% of global capacity. What’s more, the country is showing no signs of slowing down. It has the world’s largest wind and solar project in the pipeline, which could add another 400,000MW to its clean energy capacity.
Following China from afar is the U.S., which recently surpassed 100,000MW of solar power capacity after installing another 50,000MW in the first three months of 2021. Annual solar growth in the U.S. has averaged an impressive 42% over the last decade. Policies like the solar investment tax credit, which offers a 26% tax credit on residential and commercial solar systems, have helped propel the industry forward.
Although Australia hosts a fraction of China’s solar capacity, it tops the per capita rankings due to its relatively low population of 26 million people. The Australian continent receives the highest amount of solar radiation of any continent, and over 30% of Australian households now have rooftop solar PV systems.
China: The Solar Champion
In 2020, President Xi Jinping stated that China aims to be carbon neutral by 2060, and the country is taking steps to get there.
China is a leader in the solar industry, and it seems to have cracked the code for the entire solar supply chain. In 2019, Chinese firms produced 66% of the world’s polysilicon, the initial building block of silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) panels. Furthermore, more than three-quarters of solar cells came from China, along with 72% of the world’s PV panels.
With that said, it’s no surprise that 5 of the world’s 10 largest solar parks are in China, and it will likely continue to build more as it transitions to carbon neutrality.
What’s Driving the Rush for Solar Power?
The energy transition is a major factor in the rise of renewables, but solar’s growth is partly due to how cheap it has become over time. Solar energy costs have fallen exponentially over the last decade, and it’s now the cheapest source of new energy generation.
Since 2010, the cost of solar power has seen a 85% decrease, down from $0.28 to $0.04 per kWh. According to MIT researchers, economies of scale have been the single-largest factor in continuing the cost decline for the last decade. In other words, as the world installed and made more solar panels, production became cheaper and more efficient.
This year, solar costs are rising due to supply chain issues, but the rise is likely to be temporary as bottlenecks resolve.
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