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Solid Chevron to Describe Its Ultra-Busy Quarter

Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) , the second-largest U.S.-based integrated oil and gas company, behind ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) , will cap a wild and wooly week on Friday by announcing its results for the third quarter of this year. Along with the other members of big oil, the company's results are almost certain to be affected by commodities prices that were bland at best in the period.

For starters, the company's per-share earnings are expected by the analysts who follow it to come in at approximately $2.83, about 23% below the $3.67 per share that marked the third quarter a year ago. Revenues are forecast for $64.1 billion, versus the $64.4 billion for the third quarter of 2011. It's noteworthy that, of that analyst group, 17 of the 24 who have placed ratings on the company have called it at least a "Buy." In contrast, more than half of the analysts who report on Exxon have placed a "Hold" rating on the company's stock.

A mid-quarter compass point
Chevron has made the prognosticating task for the quarter somewhat less challenging by releasing an update in the middle of the period. Through the first two months of the quarter, U.S. net oil-equivalent production was down 19,000 barrels a day, in large part because Hurricane Isaac chose to take a path through the most productive portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

International production slid by 87,000 equivalent barrels per day, as operations were curtailed for planned maintenance in the U.K. and Kazakhstan. Price realizations across the board for both oil and natural gas were slightly lower year-on-year for the first portion of the quarter.

In the downstream sector, refining margins were generally higher for the first two months of the quarter than for the entirety of the comparable year-ago quarter. Total throughput was affected, however, by a severe fire at Chevron's Richmond, Calif., refinery. The unit is expected to be out of service for the remainder of the year.

The new initiatives
As the quarter came to an end, Chevron was awarded participation rights in a pair of deepwater blocks offshore Sierra Leone in West Africa. The two blocks, which have been combined into one concession, cover a combined area of about 2,100 square miles, and have water depths ranging from about 4,900 feet to 9,800 feet. Chevron will hold a 55% interest in the concession, with another 30% being held by Noble Energy (NYSE: NBL  ) .

Also during the quarter, Chevron bought 246,000 leased acres in New Mexico, in the Delaware Basin portion of the revitalized Permian Basin, from Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) . The leasehold being acquired by Chevron -- Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-B  ) is also acquiring acreage from Chesapeake -- currently puts out about 7,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, a figure that Chevron has stated it expects to drive considerably higher.

In Indonesia, where Chevron is the nation's largest producer of crude, the company has initiated a $500 million expansion of its project at Duri field in Sumatra. The project likely will involve 539 new wells, 145 of which will utilize steam injection to increase production.

In Western Australia, where Chevron has been the de facto leader of the pack in discovering and developing natural gas for conversion to liquid natural gas, the company has announced a pair of new gas discoveries in the Greater Gorgon Area. The company is the operator of the massive Gorgon LNG project, in which Exxon and Shell also participate.

In Lithuania, Chevron is acquiring a 50% interest in LL Investicijos, a privately held oil and gas company. It's noteworthy that, along with ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) , in particular, Chevron continues to expand the scope of its planned shale gas program in Poland, which borders on Lithuania. Lithuania currently obtains all of its natural gas from Russia.

The Foolish takeaway
I could continue with specific initiatives that Chevron has undertaken during or immediately following the third quarter. I'll cease by noting, however, that Chevron remains my favorite among the members of big oil. It therefore is my belief that Fools would be well advised to watch for the company's quarterly release on Friday and to add its name to My Watchlist.

If you're on the lookout for some other currently intriguing energy plays, check out The Motley Fool's "3 Stocks for $100 Oil." You can get free access to this special report by clicking here.

David Lee Smith has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil and has the following options: long JAN 2013 $16.00 calls on Chesapeake Energy, short JAN 2014 $15.00 puts on Chesapeake Energy, long JAN 2014 $20.00 calls on Chesapeake Energy, and long JAN 2014 $30.00 calls on Chesapeake Energy. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Chevron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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