Chart of the major energy companies dubbed "Big Oil", sorted by latest published revenue
ExxonMobil was formed in 1999 by the merger of two major oil companies, Exxon and Mobil.
1870 to 1911
Both Exxon and Mobil were descendants of Standard Oil, established by John D. Rockefeller and partners in 1870 as the Standard Oil Company of Ohio. In 1882, it together with its affiliated companies was incorporated as the Standard Oil Trust with Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and Standard Oil Company of New York as its largest companies. The Anglo-American Oil Company was established in the United Kingdom in 1888. In 1890, Standard Oil, together with local ship merchants in Bremen established Deutsch-Amerikanische Petroleum Gesellschaft (later: Esso A.G.). In 1891, a sale branch for the Netherlands and Belgium, American Petroleum Company, was established in Rotterdam. At the same year, a sale branch for Italy, Società Italo Americana pel Petrolio, was established in Venice.
The Standard Oil Trust was dissolved under the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1892; however, it reemerged as the Standard Oil Interests. In 1893, the Chinese and the whole Asian kerosene market was assigned to Standard Oil Company of New York in order to improve trade with the Asian counterparts. In 1898, Standard Oil of New Jersey acquired controlling stake in Imperial Oil of Canada. In 1899, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey became the holding company for the Standard Oil Interests. The anti-monopoly proceedings against the Standard Oil were launched in 1898. The reputation of Standard Oil in the public eye suffered badly after publication of Ida M. Tarbell's classic exposé The History of the Standard Oil Co. in 1904, leading to a growing outcry for the government to take action against the company. By 1911, with public outcry at a climax, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Standard Oil must be dissolved and split into 34 companies. Two of these companies were Jersey Standard ("Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey"), which eventually became Exxon, and Socony ("Standard Oil Co. of New York"), which eventually became Mobil.
1911 to 1950
Over the next few decades, Jersey Standard and Socony grew significantly. John Duston Archbold was the first president of Jersey Standard. Archbold was followed by Walter C. Teagle in 1917, who made it the largest oil company in the world. In 1919, Jersey Standard acquired a 50% share in Humble Oil & Refining Co., a Texas oil producer. In 1920, it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. In the following years it acquired or established Tropical Oil Company of Colombia (1920), Standard Oil Company of Venezuela (1921), and Creole Petroleum Company of Venezuela (1928).
Henry Clay Folger was head of Socony until 1923, when he was succeeded by Herbert L. Pratt. The growing automotive market inspired the product trademark Mobiloil, registered by Socony in 1920. After dissolution of Standard Oil, Socony had refining and marketing assets but no production activities. For this reason, Socony purchased a 45% interest in Magnolia Petroleum Co., a major refiner, marketer and pipeline transporter, in 1918. In 1925, Magnolia became wholly owned by Socony. In 1926, Socony purchased General Petroleum Corporation of California. In 1928, Socony joined the Turkish Petroleum Company (Iraq Petroleum Company). In 1931, Socony merged with Vacuum Oil Company, an industry pioneer dating back to 1866, to form Socony-Vacuum.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Jersey Standard has established through its Dutch subsidiary an exploration and production company Nederlandsche Koloniale Petroleum Maatschappij in 1912. In 1922, it found oil in Indonesia and in 1927, it built a refinery in Sumatra. It had oil production and refineries but no marketing network. Socony-Vacuum had Asian marketing outlets supplied remotely from California. In 1933, Jersey Standard and Socony-Vacuum merged their interests in the Asia-Pacific region into a 50–50 joint venture. Standard Vacuum Oil Company, or "Stanvac," operated in 50 countries, from East Africa to New Zealand, before it was dissolved in 1962.
In 1924, Jersey Standard and General Motors pooled its tetraethyllead-related patents and established the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation. In 1927, Jersey Standard signed a 25-years cooperation agreement with IG Farben for the coal hydrogenation research in the United States. Jersey Standard assumed this cooperation to be beneficial as it believed the United States oil reserves to be exhausted in the near future and that the coal hydrogenation would give an access for producing synthetic fuels. It erected synthetic fuel plants in Bayway, Baton Rouge, and Baytown (unfinished). The interest in hydrogenation evaporated after discovery of the East Texas Oil Field. As a part of the cooperation between Jersey Standard and IG Farben, a joint company, Standard I.G. Company, was established with Jersey Standard having a stake of 80%. IG Farben transferred rights to the hydrogenation process outside of Germany to the joint venture in exchange of $35 million stake of Jersey Standard shares. In 1930, the joint company established Hydro Patents Company to license the hydrogenation process in the United States. The agreement with IG Farben gave to Jersey Standard access to patents related to polyisobutylene which assist Jersey Standard to advance in isobutolene polymerization and to produce the first butyl rubber in 1937. As the agreement with IG Farben gave to the German company a veto right of licensing chemical industry patents in the United States, including patent for butyl rubber, Jersey Standard was accused of treason by senator Harry S. Truman. In 1941, it opened the first commercial synthetic toluene plant.
In 1932, Jersey Standard acquired foreign assets of the Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company. In 1937, its assets in Bolivia were nationalized, followed by nationalization of its assets in Mexico in 1938.
Since the 1911 Standard Oil Trust breakup, Jersey Standard used the trademark Esso, a phonetic pronunciation of the initials "S" and "O" in the name Standard Oil, as one of its primary brand names. However, several of the other Standard Oil spinoffs objected to the use of that name in their territories, and successfully got the U.S. federal courts in the 1930s to ban the Esso brand in those states. In those territories where the ban was in force, Jersey Standard instead marketed its products under the Enco or Humble names.
In 1935, Socony Vacuum Oil opened the huge Mammoth Oil Port on Staten Island which had a capacity of handling a quarter of a billion gallons of petroleum products a year and could transship oil from ocean-going tankers and river barges. In 1940, Socony-Vacuum purchased the Gilmore Oil Company of California, which in 1945 was merged with another subsidiary, General Petroleum Corporation. In 1947, Jersey Standard and Royal Dutch Shell formed the joint venture
Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV for oil and gas exploration and production in the Netherlands. In 1948, Jersey Standard and Socony-Vacuum acquired interests in the Arab-American Oil Company (Aramco).
1950 to 1972
In 1955, Socony-Vacuum became Socony Mobil Oil Company. In 1959, Magnolia Petroleum Company, General Petroleum Corporation, and Mobil Producing Company were merged to form the Mobil Oil Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Socony Mobil. In 1966, Socony Mobil Oil Company became the Mobil Oil Corporation.
Humble Oil became a wholly owned subsidiary of Jersey Standard and was reorganized into the United States marketing division of Jersey Standard in 1959. In 1967, Humble Oil purchased all remaining Signal stations from Standard Oil Company of California (Chevron) In 1969, Humble Oil opened a new refinery in Benicia, California.
In Libya, Jersey Standard made its first major oil discovery in 1959.
Mobil Chemical Company was established in 1960 and Exxon Chemical Company (first named Enjay Chemicals) in 1965.
In 1965, Jersey Standard started to acquire coal assets through its affiliate Carter Oil (later renamed Exxon Coal, U.S.A.). For managing the Midwest and Eastern coal assets in the United States, the Monterey Coal Company was established in 1969. Carter Oil focused on the developing synthetic fuels from coal. In 1966, it started to develop the coal liquefaction process called the Exxon Donor Solvent Process. In April 1980, Exxon opened a 250-ton-per-day pilot plant in Baytown, Texas. The plant was closed and dismantled in 1982.
In 1967, Mobil acquired a 28% strategic stake in the German fuel chain Aral.
In late 1960s Jersey Standard task force was looking for projects 30 years in the future. In April 1973, Exxon founded Solar Power Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary for manufacturing of terrestrial photovoltaic cells. After 1980s oil glut Exxon's internal report projected that solar would not become viable until 2012 or 2013. Consequently, Exxon sold Solar Power Corporation in 1984. In 1974–1994, also Mobil developed solar energy through Mobil Tyco Solar Energy Corporation, its joint venture with Tyco Laboratories.
In late 1960s, Jersey Standard entered into the nuclear industry. In 1969, it created a subsidiary, Jersey Nuclear Company (later: Exxon Nuclear Company), for manufacturing and marketing of uranium fuel, which was to be fabricated from uranium concentrates mined by the mineral department of Humble Oil (later: Exxon Minerals Company). In 1970, Jersey Nuclear opened a nuclear fuel manufacturing facility, now owned by Areva, in Richland, Washington. In 1986, Exxon Nuclear was sold to
Kraftwerk Union, a nuclear arm of Siemens. The company started surface mining of uranium ore in Converse County, Wyoming, in 1970, solution mining in 1972, and underground mining in 1977. Uranium ore processing started in 1972. The facility was closed in 1984. In 1973, Exxon acquired the Ray Point uranium ore processing facility which was shortly afterwards decommissioned.
1972 to 1998
In 1972, Exxon was unveiled as the new, unified brand name for all former Enco and Esso outlets. At the same time, the company changed its corporate name from Standard Oil of New Jersey to Exxon Corporation, and Humble Oil became Exxon Company, U.S.A. The rebranding came after successful test-marketing of the Exxon name, under two experimental logos, in the fall and winter of 1971-72. Along with the new name, Exxon settled on a rectangular logo using red lettering and blue trim on a white background, similar to the familiar color scheme on the old Enco and Esso logos. Exxon replaced the Esso, Enco, and Humble brands in the United States on January 1, 1973.
Due to the oil embargo of 1973, Exxon and Mobil began to expand their exploration and production into the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, Africa and Asia. Mobil diversified its activities into retail sale and packaging by acquiring the parent company of Montgomery Ward and Container Corporation of America.
In 1976, Exxon, through its subsidiary Intercor, entered into partnership with Colombian state owned company Carbocol to start coal mining in Cerrejón. In 1980, Exxon merged its assets in the mineral industry into newly established Exxon Minerals (later ExxonMobil Coal and Minerals). At the same year, Exxon entered into the oil shale industry by buying a 60% stake in the Colony Shale Oil Project in Colorado, United States, and 50% stake in the Rundle oil shale deposit in Queensland, Australia. On May 2, 1982, Exxon announced the termination of the Colony Shale Oil Project because of low oil-prices and increased expenses.
Mobil moved its headquarters from New York to Fairfax County, Virginia, in 1987. Exxon sold the Exxon Building (1251 Avenue of the Americas), its former headquarters in Rockefeller Center, to a unit of Mitsui Real Estate Development Co. Ltd. in 1986 for $610 million, and in 1989, moved its headquarters from Manhattan, New York City to the Las Colinas area of Irving, Texas. John Walsh, president of Exxon subsidiary Friendswood Development Company, stated that Exxon left New York because the costs were too high.
On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska and spilled more than 11 million US gallons (42,000 m3) of crude oil. The Exxon Valdez oil spill was the second largest in U.S. history, and in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez incident, the U.S. Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. An initial award of $5 billion USD punitive was reduced to $507.5 million by the US Supreme Court in June 2008, and distributions of this award have commenced.
In 1994, Mobil established a subsidiary MEGAS (Mobil European Gas) which became responsible for its Mobil's natural gas operations in Europe. In 1996, Mobil and British Petroleum merged their European refining and marketing of fuels and lubricants businesses. Mobil had 30% stake in fuels and 51% stake in lubricants businesses.
In 1996, Exxon entered into the Russian market by signing a production sharing agreement on the Sakhalin-I project.
1998 to 2000
In 1998, Exxon and Mobil signed a US$73.7 billion merger agreement forming a new company called Exxon Mobil Corp. (ExxonMobil), the largest oil company and the third largest company in the world. This was the largest corporate merger at that time. At the time of the merge, Exxon was the world's largest energy company while Mobil was the second largest oil and gas company in the United States. The merger announcement followed shortly after the merge of British Petroleum and Amoco, which was the largest industrial merger at the time. Formally, Mobil was bought by Exxon. Mobil's shareholders received 1.32 Exxon's share for each Mobil's share. As a result, the former Mobil's shareholders receives about 30% in the merged company while the stake of former Exxon's shareholders was about 70%. The head of Exxon Lee Raymond remained the chairman and chief executive of the new company and Mobil chief executive Lucio Noto became vice-chairman. The merger of Exxon and Mobil was unique in American history because it reunited the two largest companies of Standard Oil trust.
The merger was approved by the European Commission on September 29, 1999, and by the United States Federal Trade Commission on November 30, 1999. As a condition for the Exxon and Mobil merger, the European Commission ordered to dissolve the Mobil's partnership with BP, as also to sell its stake in Aral. As a result, BP acquired all fuels assets, two base oil plants, and a substantial part of the joint venture's finished lubricants business, while ExxonMobil acquired other base oil plants and a part of the finished lubricants business. The stake in Aral was sold to Vega Oel, later acquired by BP. The European Commission also demanded divesting of Mobil's MEGAS and Exxon's 25% stake in the German gas transmission company Thyssengas. MEGAS was acquired by Duke Energy and the stake in Thyssengas was acquired by RWE. The company also divested Exxon's aviation fuel business to BP and Mobil's certain pipeline capacity servicing Gatwick Airport. The Federal Trade Commission required to sell 2,431 gas stations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (1,740), California (360), Texas (319), and Guam (12). In addition, ExxonMobil should sell its Benicia Refinery in California, terminal operations in Boston, the Washington, D.C. area and Guam, interest in the Colonial pipeline, Mobil's interest in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, Exxon's jet turbine oil business, and give-up the option to buy Tosco Corporation gas stations. The Benicia Refinery and 340 Exxon-branded stations in California were bought by Valero Energy Corporation in 2000.
2000 to present
In 2002, the company sold its stake in the Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia, and copper-mining business in Chile. At the same time, it renewed its interest in oil shale by developing the ExxonMobil Electrofrac in-situ extraction process. In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management approved their research and development project in Rio Blanco County, Colorado. However, in November 2015 the company relinquished its federal research, development and demonstration lease. In 2009, ExxonMobil phased-out coal mining by selling its last operational coal mine in the United States.
In 2008, ExxonMobil started to phase-out from the United States direct-served retail market by selling its service stations. The usage of Exxon and Mobil brands was franchised to the new owners.
In 2010, ExxonMobil bought XTO Energy, the company focused on development and production of unconventional resources.
In 2011, ExxonMobil started a strategic cooperation with Russian oil company Rosneft to develop the East-Prinovozemelsky field in the Kara Sea and the Tuapse field in the Black Sea. In 2012, ExxonMobil concluded an agreement with Rosneft to assess possibilities to produce tight oil from Bazhenov and Achimov formations in Western Siberia.  In 2018, due to international sanctions imposed against Russia and Rosneft, ExxonMobil announces that it will end these joint ventures with Rosneft, but will continue the Sakhalin-I project. The company estimates it would cost about $200 million after tax.
In 2012, ExxonMobil started a coalbed methane development in Australia, but withdrew from the project in 2014.
In 2012, ExxonMobil confirmed a deal for production and exploration activities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
In November 2013, ExxonMobil agreed to sell its majority stakes in a Hong Kong-based utility and power storage firm, Castle Peak Co Ltd, for a total of $3.4 billion, to CLP Holdings.
In 2014, ExxonMobil had two "non-monetary" asset swap deals with LINN Energy LLC. In these transactions, ExxonMobil gave to LINN interests in the South Belridge and Hugoton gas fields in the exchange of assets in the Permian Basin in Texas and the Delaware Basin in New Mexico.
On October 9, 2014, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes awarded ExxonMobil $1.6 billion in the case the company had brought against the Venezuelan government. ExxonMobil alleged that the Venezuelan government illegally expropriated its Venezuelan assets in 2007 and paid unfair compensation.
In September 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission contacted ExxonMobil, questioning why (unlike some other companies) they had not yet started writing down the value of their oil reserves, given that much may have to remain in the ground to comply with future climate change legislation. Mark Carney has expressed concerns about the industry's "stranded assets". In October 2016, ExxonMobil conceded it may need to declare a lower value for its in-ground oil, and that it might write down about one-fifth of its reserves.
Also in September 2016, ExxonMobil successfully asked a U.S. federal court to lift the trademark injunction that banned it from using the Esso brand in various U.S. states. By this time, as a result of numerous mergers and rebranding, the remaining Standard Oil companies that previously objected to the Esso name had been acquired by BP. ExxonMobil cited trademark surveys in which there was no longer possible confusion with the Esso name as it was more than seven decades before. BP also had no objection to lifting the ban. ExxonMobil did not specify whether they would now open new stations in the U.S. under the Esso name; they were primarily concerned about the additional expenses of having separate marketing, letterheads, packaging, and other materials that omit "Esso".
On December 13, 2016, the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, was nominated as Secretary of State by President-elect Donald Trump.
In January 2017, Federal climate investigations of ExxonMobil were considered less likely under the new Trump administration.
On January 9, 2017, it was revealed that Infineum, a joint venture of ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell headquartered in England, conducted business with Iran, Syria, and Sudan while those states were under US sanctions. ExxonMobil representatives said that because Infineum was based in Europe and the transactions did not involve any U.S. employees, this did not violate the sanctions.
In April 2017, Donald Trump's administration denied a request from ExxonMobil to allow it to resume oil drilling in Russia. Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) said that the "Treasury Department should reject any waiver from sanctions which would allow Exxon Mobile or any other company to resume business with prohibited Russian entities."
In July 2017, ExxonMobil filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration challenging the finding that the company violated sanctions imposed on Russia. William Holbrook, a company spokesman, said that the ExxonMobil had followed "clear guidance from the White House and Treasury Department when its representatives signed [in May 2014] documents involving ongoing oil and gas activities in Russia with Rosneft".