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Chevron Gassing Up Down Under

Just when it seemed things had to get better at Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) , they have. In fact, it now seems that good things for the company may finally be coming in pairs.

At mid-week, with Chevron skirmishing in such varied international locations as Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and Myanmar, and warning that its about-to-be-released earnings will be lower than expected, the company received two bits of positive news. First, it was told that, along with partners ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) (NYSE: RDS-B  ) , it's been cleared to begin developing the big Gorgon gas project off the coast of northwestern Australia.

The massive project will involve the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on Barrow Island, off the coast of Western Australia state. The plant will be able to produce about 10 million metric tons of LNG annually. It will take just shy of four years to construct, creating roughly 6,000 jobs over the project's life. Chevron has a half-interest in the project, and its two partners are each in for a quarter.

Chevron's other bit of positive news involved the cessation of a strike by workers at some of its facilities in Nigeria. Better yet, the strike didn't disrupt the company's production or exports in the country.

The company is in negotiations to determine the final financial effects of its ouster by President Hugo Chavez from Venezuela earlier this year. It's also being pressured by the government of Kazakhstan and Italy's Eni (NYSE: E  ) . Both companies are operating major energy projects in Kazakhstan, the government of which apparently learned how to handle Western companies at the feet of its Russian neighbor.

Finally, Chevron has been the target of organized demonstrations in Myanmar, the site of recent civil unrest. It's being urged to escrow royalties there from the gas project it operates with France's Total (NYSE: TOT  ) , rather than pay them to the nation's repressive military junta.

So Fools, here's where I come out on this: I'm pleased by Chevron's double-barreled good news. But with refinery margins being squeezed across the board, and with crude production barely holding its own in the industry, it's my contention that we have to be more selective than ever among the major integrated companies. I'm inclined to stay on the sidelines with the majors, perhaps letting Exxon stand as group proxy until overall industry conditions change.

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