Most large, integrated firms focus on exploration and production as their main profit driver, but that is not the case with Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU) Suncor is different in that its primary profit center, as well as its competitive advantage, lies in its strategically placed and well-supplied refining and marketing segments.  

Suncor's competitive advantage is its cheap source of oil (much of it coming from oil sands in Canada) and its ability to lever it very nicely into the downstream, selling it in lucrative Canadian and United States markets. Looking at net profit for some of the majors, it's barely in the double-digits -- 11% for Exxon-Mobile (NYSE:XOM); 13% for Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A); even lower for BP (NYSE:BP).

Suncor, on the other hand, is at a healthy 50%. Its process -- reliant on inland markets, heavily integrated production running at maximum capacity, and lots of refineries in good markets -- allows Suncor to turn oil that they could sell at WTI prices into real profit at international prices.

Suncor has its highly tailored process almost down to a science, and it's outperforming competitors as a result. If you're on the lookout for some other currently intriguing energy plays, check out The Motley Fool's report, "3 Stocks for $100 Oil." You can get free access to this special report by clicking here.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.