Saturday, October 29, 2011

2011-10-29 "Chevron earns $7.83 billion in 3rd-quarter profit; $7.83 billion is more than double 2010's 3rd quarter" by David R. Baker from "San Francisco Chronicle"
The high oil and gas prices cursed by consumers brought Chevron Corp. a near-record $7.83 billion profit in the third quarter, the San Ramon company reported Friday.
That's more than twice what Chevron, America's second-largest oil business, earned during the same period last year. And it fell just shy of the company's highest quarterly profit - $7.89 billion in the third quarter of 2008, when oil prices briefly reached $145 per barrel.
Crude prices haven't neared that peak this year. But they have remained stubbornly high, despite the sluggish economy. Chevron's average U.S. price for a barrel of crude oil hit $97 in the third quarter, up from $69 a year earlier. Overseas, the company's average price reached $103 per barrel, up from $70 last year.
"We've entered an era when supply and demand are really tightly balanced," said Allen Good, an oil-industry analyst with the Morningstar market research firm. "Any sign of economic growth in Europe or America, with continued strong demand in China, is going to affect prices."
Chevron's third-quarter revenue jumped 26 percent to reach $61.3 billion, even as the company's worldwide production of oil and natural gas slipped 5 percent, down to 2.6 million barrels per day.
All big international oil companies have seen their profits surge this year. Exxon Mobil Corp. on Thursday reported earning $10.33 billion in the third quarter, a 41 percent increase from the same period last year. Royal Dutch Shell's profits doubled to reach $7 billion.
Although Chevron and its competitors make the overwhelming majority of their money selling crude oil, this year's high gasoline prices have boosted their profits.
Chevron's U.S. "downstream" operations, which include refining and marketing, made $704 million in profit during the third quarter, twice the tally from a year earlier. International downstream profits topped $1.28 billion, although $500 million of that came from selling a refinery and other assets in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Gasoline prices have remained high despite weak demand in the United States. The country's average price for a gallon of regular now stands at $3.45, 64 cents higher than a year ago, according to the AAA automotive service. California's average stands at $3.84.
Prices usually drop during the fall, but that hasn't happened this year. U.S. refineries have been able to sell any excess gasoline to eager markets in South America, keeping prices from tumbling.
"My real worry is the spring," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service. "We're looking at a spike in the spring, and the question is, is that going to be the straw that broke the consumer's back in the U.S. and Europe."
Chevron's top refining executive warned Friday that last week's decision by California regulators to create a cap-and-trade system for cutting greenhouse gas emissions would probably lead to higher prices in the state. Chevron operates two California refineries, in Richmond and El Segundo (Los Angeles County).
"California energy prices are some of the highest in the nation, whether you're talking about electricity or fuels," said Michael Wirth, executive vice president of Chevron's downstream operations. "By policy, this is designed to drive prices higher. And at some point, businesses have to confront that, as do the consumers of those businesses' products. And in a state where the economy is challenged, where employment is challenged, and where the fiscal situation is unsustainable, I think the effects here are predictable."

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