Since XTO Energy's (NYSE:XTO) Bakken buy, billion-dollar oil deals have slowed to a trickle in the United States. Sure, there have been gas-focused transactions aplenty, but where's the oil action these days?

Here's a three-part answer to that question:

Things kicked into high gear about a month ago, with a successful $2.6 billion cash bid by the foreign investment arm of India's state-backed ONGC for U.K.-listed Imperial Energy.

The Russia-focused player was reportedly also in the sights of Sinopec, the parent of China Petroleum & Chemical (NYSE:SNP), but no bidding war emerged. Perhaps Sinopec is still smarting from its 2006 experience in Russia, which saw the company immediately lose majority control of the asset to Rosneft. As we've learned, these Russian energy champions play hardball.

North Africa
Next came a bid from Eni (NYSE:E) for long-suffering First Calgary, a Canadian player with a 75% interest in an exploration block in Algeria. This company had long been an M&A story gone horribly wrong. Its share price plummeted from north of $20 in 2005 to sub-$2 before rumors of an Eni approach surfaced.

No long-term holders can be pleased with the $3.60 bid, which values First Calgary at just shy of $1 billion, but it appears that the heady valuations of the past were wildly optimistic. Proved reserves net to First Calgary were estimated at roughly 55 million barrels of oil equivalent at the end of 2006.

The Middle East
Rounding out the trio of transactions is Sinopec's purchase of Tanganyika Oil, another Canadian-listed player with Syrian heavy oil assets. This marks a comeuppance for Sinopec, since ONGC was the primary rival bidder here.

Tanganyika has been studying the cyclic steam stimulation technique pioneered by Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A) (NYSE:RDS-B) in Venezuela. It just so happens that Sinopec is active in the Orinoco Belt, having picked up pieces left behind by Western majors ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) after they were booted by Hugo Chavez. So there may be some synergy between the two projects.

In short, fellow Fools would do well to look a bit further afield when perusing their oil patch investment options. A starting place might be this Middle Eastern player that Wall Street continues to ignore. For even more ideas, check out the Independent Oil & Gas tag on Motley Fool CAPS.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. His CAPS profile is here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.