Believe it or not, writers have feelings, too. And so it's nice to be able to communicate to the world of Fools when we find a company materially improving fortunes. It's even more agreeable when those strengthening fortunes are reflected in the company's share price.

Petro-Canada (NYSE:PCZ), which conducts oil and gas operations -- both onshore and offshore and upstream and downstream -- across the nation to the north and internationally, has weighed in with solid first-quarter results. The company's operating earnings, adjusted for unusual items, were $580 million, or $1.17 a share -- 19% higher than the $486 million in the comparable quarter a year ago.

From an operational perspective, the company produced 405,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in the most recent quarter, compared with 355,000 barrels per day in the 2006 first quarter. This 14% higher rate reflected contributions from new or increased production in the North Sea, from the eastern coast of Canada, and from Canadian oil sands. At the same time, the company benefited from a strong contribution from its refining activities. In that area, the refinery utilization rate averaged 96%.

Petro-Canada is one of several robust Canadian energy companies from a list that could include TransCanada (NYSE:TRP), Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU), Canadian Natural Resources (NYSE:CNQ) and Imperial Oil (NYSE:IMO).  In fact, all these companies are neighbors based in Calgary.

Petro-Canada's shares have declined slightly more than 10% during the past year. However, with its operations and its prospects obviously improving, those shares have climbed about 17% in just the past month.

I find that I'm intrigued by Petro-Canada. In round numbers, its forward P/E ratio is only 11.3 and its enterprise value-to-EBITDA ratio stands at less than 5.0. At the same time, its balance sheet is extremely solid.

If you're of a mind to increase your exposure to the energy sector -- an approach I applaud for those not already floating in oil -- it seems to me that a look north of the border, and especially at Petro-Canada, could be worth your time and effort.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.