It wasn't long ago that BP (NYSE:BP), Europe's second-largest oil company after Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A), was in the soup. Things were going badly, and the company was perceived to be at the bottom of the barrel among the six super majors.

Now, however, it appears to be making as much hay as any of Big Oil's members, scoring a variety of successes under its still-new CEO Tony Hayward. Mr. Hayward was a noteworthy speaker at last week's 24th World Gas Conference in Buenos Aires for his comments extolling the increased use of natural gas among the fossil fuels.

As he observed, last year clean burning gas was the only hydrocarbon with a rise in consumption in both OECD and non-OECD countries. He also noted that developments in technologies are expected to add another 60% to current gas reserves during just the next few years.

In another area, despite the presence of such behemoths as ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), BP led the only group to gain a contract in the recent round of bidding to work on Iraq's previously developed fields. Now, on the basis of an initial agreement signed late last week, the BP team will work to increase the production from the massive Rumaila field.

Also last week, TNK-BP, a joint venture half owned by BP and half by a troika of Russian billionaires, announced agreements on a number of major investments. BP and the Russians appear to be getting along swimmingly, which itself is something of a surprise.

Not long ago, BP and it partners were squabbling incessantly, the venture's BP-selected CEO was forced out, and it appeared that the partnership would fall apart, endangering a significant amount of BP's global reserves and production. But, as recently as this week, TNK-BP said it was now considering performing upstream development work in Iraq. Were that to occur, BP could essentially be working beside itself there.

And then, of course, there was the recent -- and major -- deepwater "Tiber" discovery by BP, Petrobras (NYSE:PBR), and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) in the Gulf of Mexico. And it seems that nary a moment goes by without the announcement of a new discovery by BP in West Africa.

So I'm suggesting strongly that, in an atmosphere of ascending crude prices, Fools keep tabs as BP chalks up one success after another. Oh, and did I tell you that the company will start you off with a 6.4% dividend yield?

BP carries a full complement of five stars as rated by Motley Fool CAPS players. Would you give this member of Big Oil the same value?

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned above. He does solicit your comments or questions. Petroleo Brasileiro is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that always steals the show.