Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (NYSE:APC) may not be a household name in the way that, say, ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) are. It does, however, have at least one thing in common with those better-known sector peers: The Houston-based company is benefiting in spades from sky-high energy prices these days.

Indeed, before Friday's market bell, Anadarko checked in with an impressive Q3 report, posting net income for the period of nearly $600 million, a tidy sum that amounts to an earnings per share figure of $2.51. That's a giant leap compared with the year-ago period. During 2004's third quarter, Anadarko racked up a "mere" $399 million in net income, or $1.58 per share. What's more, results this time around would have been even better if not for a pair of special items that dinged Anadarko's bottom line by roughly $103 million on an after-tax basis.

Still, impressive though the company's Q3 was, prospective investors here should factor in the high price of energy before filling up on Anadarko's shares -- or those of any other petrochemical company just now. That dynamic is boosting the entire sector, after all, and pinning your investment hopes to an ongoing increase in the price of a commodity isn't realistic. Instead, savvy investors should focus on fundamentals, looking primarily for operational efficiencies and attractive valuations.

So how does Anadarko stack up on those fronts?

Well, on a price-to-earnings basis, the company's stock is cheaper than that of Burlington Resources (NYSE:BR) -- a close competitor -- and priced comparably to ExxonMobil's. It's slightly more expensive, however, than shares of BP (NYSE:BP), and in terms of operational prowess, I think ExxonMobil is the strongest of all the majors.

To be sure, Anadarko does big natural gas business, too, and for long-term, energy-centric investors looking to diversify a portfolio heavily leveraged to the price of crude, the company may be worth a look. For the rest of us, however, now seems like a good time to watch and wait from the oil field's sidelines. The industry isn't exactly topped-off, but from my perspective, things do look a bit frothy right now.

More picks from the Foolish Oil Patch:

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Shannon Zimmerman runs point on The Motley Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and owns none of the companies mentioned above. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.