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Chevron Says First-Quarter Profit Rises From Fourth Quarter

Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. energy producer, said first-quarter profit exceeded the prior quarter because of rising oil prices, widening refining margins and the sale of fuel-marketing assets in Spain.

Oil and natural-gas production from company-operated wells averaged the equivalent of 2.63 million barrels a day during January and February, 4.9 percent lower than the daily average for the full first-quarter of 2011, the San Ramon, California-based company said in a statement today. Results for the full three-month period will be announced on April 27.

After spending $3.2 billion last year to acquire Appalachian gas producer Atlas Energy Inc., Chief Executive Officer and Chairman John Watson is shifting the company’s focus to finding crude and natural-gas liquids such as ethane that sell at a premium to gas. Chevron will spend $32.7 billion this year, a 12 percent increase from last year, on capital projects including oil platforms, gas-export plants and refinery equipment, the company said in December.

Brent crude futures, the benchmark for two-thirds of the world’s oil, averaged $118.45 a barrel during the January-to-March period, an 8.6 percent increase from the first-quarter average and 12 percent higher than a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

U.S. gas prices, weighed down by a glut of supply from shale formations, tumbled to an average of $2.503 per million British thermal units during the quarter, a 28 percent decline from the prior period and 40 percent lower than a year earlier.

Chevron recorded a $200 million gain from the sale of so-called downstream assets in Spain, according to the statement.

Exxon Mobil Corp., based in Irving, Texas, is the largest U.S. energy producer.

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