The Dow Jones is having a rough year. The collection of 30 large companies has declined by about 12%, weighed down by growth concerns as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to combat inflation. 

The index would be down even further if it weren't for the strength of Chevron (CVX -2.57%). The oil giant's stock price has surged nearly 35% this year, the highest return in the Dow. With an unstoppable track record of growing its dividend, Chevron is an attractive option for investors seeking income with market-beating upside capabilities. 

What's fueling Chevron's returns this year

Chevron has feasted on higher crude prices in 2022. The oil giant produced a prodigious $21.8 billion in cash flow from operations during the first half of the year, nearly double the $11.2 billion it made during the same period of 2021. Meanwhile, free cash flow hit $10.6 billion in the second quarter. 

That gives Chevron the funds to deliver on all four financial priorities. The first is growing the dividend, which it boosted by 6% earlier this year. That marked its 35th straight year of unstoppable dividend growth. Chevron has increased its dividend by 20% since right before the pandemic while doubling its payout since 2010. 

Chevron also continues investing in traditional and lower-carbon energy sources. It has grown its Permian Basin production by 15% this year. Meanwhile, it's now one of the leading renewable fuels producers in the U.S. after spending over $3 billion to buy Renewable Energy Group. 

The oil giant has continued to repay debt, reducing it for the fifth straight quarter. That pushed its net debt ratio down to 8%, well below its 20% to 25% target range. Finally, Chevron continues to buy back shares. It increased the top-end of its guidance range to $15 billion, enough money to buy back up to 1% of its shares each quarter. 

Why Chevron can continue growing shareholder value

Oil prices will always be a big driver of Chevron's stock. After surging to over $120 a barrel to start the year, crude prices have cooled off considerably, recently slumping below $90 a barrel. However, that's still a great price for Chevron, which can produce billions of dollars in cash flow even if crude prices tumbled to $60 a barrel. Along with its balance sheet flexibility, that cash flow should enable Chevron to continue expanding its business and dividend while repurchasing a meaningful amount of stock.

Meanwhile, there's reason to believe crude prices could rebound in the coming months. For example, analysts from Goldman Sachs expect crude will head back to $120 a barrel, which is great news for this Buffett-owned oil stock. Several factors drive that view, including equipment and other shortages in the oil patch and OPEC's recent decision to reduce its production despite persistent supply concerns. Higher crude prices would enable Chevron to produce even more cash flow to support its financial priorities. 

While oil remains a massive catalyst for Chevron in the near term, the company is also investing in the fuels of the future. It set ambitious targets to grow its renewable natural gas, renewable fuels, and hydrogen production over the next several years. It's also investing heavily in carbon capture and storage. These investments will enable the company to reduce its emissions, positioning it to remain relevant in a lower carbon world. That would also allow Chevron to continue growing its earnings and cash flow, which should give it the fuel to keep increasing the dividend.  

A top Dow stock for dividend investors

Chevron's having a great year, thanks to higher oil prices. That gives it the cash to keep growing its dividend, expand its operations, repay debt, and buy back shares. The company's wise capital allocation strategy should enable it to continue growing shareholder value in the coming years, making it look like an attractive Dow stock, especially for those seeking a seemingly unstoppable income stream.