What's Ahead - TWA Editor Luis Ayala discusses the rise of the “new Seven Sisters.”
Enrico Mattei, Italian businessman and founder of Italy’s Eni, is widely credited to have coined the term “Sette Sorrelle” (Seven Sisters), which he used to describe the group of companies that dominated the world’s oil production in the mid-20th century. At the time, the group included today’s Exxon Mobil (Exxon + Mobil), Chevron (Chevron/ SoCal + Gulf + Texaco), BP, and Royal Dutch Shell. Along with additional multinational players such as Total and ConocoPhillips, this list is now inclusive of some of the largest international oil companies (IOCs) still in operation. IOCs are private, non state-owned companies with significant presence in the multinational oil arena—which used to be the only relevant international oil players at the time when the “Seven Sisters” term was coined.
Years passed and the wave of nationalizations that swept the oil industry during the second half of the 20th century gave rise to their new rivals: the national oil companies (NOCs). The rise of the influence of NOCs has been tremendous ever since. And indeed so: just 2 years ago, the Financial Times came up with an updated list of the most powerful players in oil and gas. In contrast to Mattei’s list, only largely state-owned oil companies or NOCs made the new ranking: Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia), Gazprom (Russia), China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC, China), National Iranian Company (NIOC, Iran), PDVSA (Venezuela), Petrobras (Brazil), and Petronas (Malaysia). In its article, the Financial Times discusses how the surviving members of the original Seven Sisters were gradually replaced by the new breed of oil companies (state-owned NOCs) over the course of a half a century and that has created a new energy landscape which seems to be here to stay.