There are but a few energy companies that are "unique" in the true sense of the word, meaning that, while they may have some competition, they virtually dominate their part of the oil patch. For instance, Oceaneering International (NYSE:OII), which spends most of its time gurgling beneath the surfaces of the seas, in the final analysis enjoys a world of its own.

As strange as it sounds, the company made a modest amount of hay under water in the most recent quarter. Its operating income was $89.7 million, up from $85.6 million in the September 2007 quarter. On a per-share basis, its earnings were $0.99, up from $0.96 a year earlier. Revenues for the quarter were up 6% to $515.8 million.

From an individual unit perspective, however, the company's quarter was something of a mixed bag. It largest unit, Subsea Products, increased its revenue by 21% year over year, while the second segment, Remotely Operated Vehicles, was up 14%. The third and fourth of the units, Inspection and Subsea Projects, were up and down, respectively.

Like its peers at such other oilfield service companies as Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) and Halliburton (NYSE:HAL), Oceaneering's management was less than ebullient regarding short-term prospects. Indeed, amid its general uncertainty, Marvin Migura, the company's CFO declined "to give our customary detailed annual earnings guidance for the upcoming year."

Nevertheless he speculated that, with average oil prices higher than $70 per barrel, his company will generate double-digit percentage earnings growth next year and that EPS should reach $4. That figure would represent a more than 11% gain from 2008's expected results.

With respect to long-term prospects, T. Jay Collins, Oceaneering's CEO, predicted that the oil and gas industry will "continue to increase its investment in the deepwater to counteract high existing reservoir depletion rates." Put in non-energy language, that means that places like offshore Brazil and the increasing depths of the Gulf of Mexico will become progressively more important to world oil production. As that trend intensifies, Oceaneering -- with its underwater bag of tricks -- stands to be an ongoing beneficiary.

I continue to believe that there is a group of oilfield services companies that operate globally and that are largely protected from a temporary pullback in energy commodities prices. In that group, I'd include Schlumberger and Halliburton, along with Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI), and Dresser Rand (NYSE:DRC). It's also a group that, because of the company's unique set of competencies, must include Oceaneering.

I'm giving a thumbs up to currently four-star Oceaneering in the Motley Fool CAPS rating game. Will you join me?

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned and hasn't been known to take a dive. He does welcome your questions or comments. The Fool has a disclosure policy without depth limits.