When it comes to oil and gas, bigger is better. The massive economies of scale, the almost unlimited access to financing and capital, the ability to strong arm suppliers and vendors for the best price possible, all of these elements have allowed big oil companies like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) to remain some of the largest and most profitable companies around the world.
While oil prices have taken a bit of a nosedive as of late, that doesn't change the fact that demand for oil will likely remain robust for several more decades. It's estimated that we will need to bring on another 13 million-23 million barrels per day of production between now and 2040 to meet the demands of a growing global population and the estimated 3 billion people that will enter the middle class in that time frame. That much more oil will require companies with operational expertise in bringing major development projects online, and you can bet they will find a way to make those project profitable.
A lot of the largest oil companies out there are national oil companies that investors like you and I have no chance of ever owning, but that doesn't mean there is a lack of big companies to choose from that will have the size and scale to help move the global oil production needle. Here is a list of the 10 companies reigning in the biggest profits in the oil business that are publicly traded on the U.S. exchanges. Many of them you will probably recognize, but a few of them on this list might surprise you.