PetroChina overtakes Exxon as top oil producer

A big shift is happening in Big Oil: An American giant now ranks behind a Chinese upstart.

Exxon Mobil (XOM-N86.410.330.38%) is no longer the world’s biggest publicly traded producer of oil. For the first time, that distinction belongs to a 13-year-old Chinese company called PetroChina (PTR-N141.073.332.41%). The Beijing company was created by the Chinese government to secure more oil for that nation’s booming economy.

PetroChina announced Thursday that it pumped 2.4 million barrels a day last year, surpassing Exxon by 100,000. The company has grown rapidly over the last decade by squeezing more from China’s aging oil fields and outspending Western companies to acquire more petroleum reserves in places like Canada, Iraq and Qatar. It’s motivated by a need to lock up as much oil as possible.

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