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The Biggest Private Oil Companies in the World

Investopedia logoInvestopedia 03-02-2016 Michelle Toovey
© Bloomberg

To maintain control over their precious oil assets, many countries form large, state-owned companies to manage their oil sectors. By keeping these companies private, the countries maintain some authority over the production, sales and expansion of valuable oil reserves. This prevents shareholders from controlling what may be a country’s most valuable asset.

The oil industry is a big business and these private, state-owned oil companies are massive. Some of them rank among the largest private companies in the world.

Saudi Aramco

Saudi Arabia manages its oil reserves through state-owned Saudi Aramco. In 2014, Saudi Aramco's average daily oil production was 12 million barrels per day (B/D), making it the world's largest private oil company by production. Saudi Aramco is very secretive, and very little is known about the company's financial metrics and operating structure. Without specific data, it is impossible to be certain, but many believe Saudi Aramco to be the most valuable company in the world.

National Iranian Oil Company

The National Iranian Oil Company ranks just behind Saudi Aramco in terms of size, but its output is about half of the Saudi company's. In 2014, National Iranian Oil Company's average production was 6 million B/D. Iranian oil output will increase as soon as the country is able to restart its oil exports. The country was previously under sanctions due to its contested nuclear program, and oil exports were prohibited. These sanctions were recently lifted; so far, the country has followed the regulations placed on it before oil exports can be resumed.


Mexican oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, or PEMEX, produced 3.6 million B/D in 2014. The company is involved in the exploration, exploitation, refining, transportation, storage, distribution, and sale of crude oil and natural gas and their derivatives. The exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas are focused in Mexico, and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Major importers of Pemex's oil include the United States and China.

Kuwait Petroleum

The Kuwait Petroleum Corporation is Kuwait's national oil company. It has exposure to multiple stages of oil production, including exploration, exploitation, refining, marketing and transportation. The company also produces petrochemicals. The Kuwait Petroleum Corporation was formed by integrating a few domestic oil companies and putting them under the control of the Kuwaiti government. Its average production in 2014 was 3.4 million B/D.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company

Abu Dhabi's National Oil Company was established in 1971 to manage the country's oil and gas industry. In 2014, the company’s average production was 3.1 million B/D. At the beginning of 2016, according to the company, its average daily production was 2.7 million B/D.

Qatar Petroleum

The state-owned Qatar Petroleum is responsible for all phases of the oil and gas industry in Qatar, including exploration, production, sales and refining. In 2014, the company's average production was 2.4 million B/D. The company is diversified. Beyond oil and natural gas, Qatar Petroleum is also involved in synthetic fuels, petrochemicals, fuel additives, fertilizers, steel and aluminum. Although it is a private company, Qatar Petroleum is willing to work with publicly traded companies and international companies. The company has a few exploration and production sharing agreements with major international oil and gas companies to explore and develop hydrocarbon assets in Qatar.


Sonatrach is the largest oil and gas company in Algeria and across the entire continent of Africa, and it operates in the exploration, production, pipeline transportation and marketing of hydrocarbons and byproducts. In 2014, Sonatrach's average production was 2.2 million B/D. The company is diversifying, increasing its investments in power generation, renewable energy resources, water desalination and mineral exploration. Sonatrach also holds assets outside of Africa.

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