Hope springs eternal. But sometimes, you can't beat the trend.

That's what Chevron (NYSE:CVX) found out as it reported earnings late last week. Like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS-A), Chevron saw its revenue and profits take a solid beating from an energy market that looks nothing like it did last year.

But before you conclude that Chevron had nothing new to add to the energy mix, take a closer look at the company. The company's presentation seemed more upbeat to me than the others, with the possible exception of BP (NYSE:BP).

Chevron reported earnings of $3.83 billion, or $1.92 per share, versus the year-ago $7.89 billion, or $3.85 per share. Its net oil-equivalent production was an impressive 11% more than the third quarter of 2008.

There were some one-time items in the earnings, but for the most part, the drop came from two factors. In the upstream segment, lower commodity prices cut earnings, even in the face of higher production. The downstream segment was clobbered -- especially in the U.S. -- by reduced demand and skinnier margins. Sales slid from $76 billion last year to $45 billion in the most recent quarter.

But in my opinion, the most helpful part of the company's entire release process was CEO Dave O'Reilly's recap of several of the meaningful projects his company has in the works. I'll mention just a few, in his words:

  • "In Angola we announced the Block 0 discovery and in Greater Vanza Longui area. The discovery well encountered over 225 feet of net pay." Chevron had help from Total (NYSE:TOT) and Eni (NYSE:E) on the project.
  • "We also announced three natural gas discoveries this quarter in Camarvon Basin offshore western Australia."
  • "Our upstream major capital projects continue their strong performance. The offshore Nigeria Agbami project reached capacity of 250,000 barrels a day in August 2009. This was over four months ahead of schedule."
  • "In Australia, we announced a final investment decision for (its massive LNG project) Gorgon. We expect Gorgon to add to our reserves and provide stable and steady production for decades to come. The project has around 40 trillion cubic feet of resources, which is equivalent to about 6.7 billion barrels of oil."

Whether December's results will improve on higher crude prices or continue to be held in check by weak natural gas prices and slim refinery margins is open to debate. In the meantime, Chevron is doing some awfully good work around the world. I'd suggest you pay attention to this second-largest U.S. oil company and the strength it's exhibiting.

What do you think of the future of Big Oil? Why not let me know by responding with a comment in the space below?

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named above. He's mighty happy to receive your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.