If you're one who believes that the members of the oilfield services group invariably travel in packs, take a quick gander at the differing treatment received by Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI) and National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV) after the two companies released results for their first quarters of 2011.

Houston-based Baker Hughes, the third-largest member of the services contingent behind Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB) and Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), checked in with results that surprised on the upside across the board. For instance, its net income nearly tripled year-on-year to $381 million, or $0.87 per share, compared with $129 million, or $0.41 a share in the first quarter of 2010.

The company's revenues for the quarter were up fully 78% to $4.53 billion. Its results therefore compared to analysts' expectations of $0.78 in per-share earnings on $4.29 billion in revenue.

A solid CEO scoop
As most energy-investing Fools know by now, I have long hailed Schlumberger and its CEO Andrew Gould for an unusual ability to clarify both his company's circumstances and the macro picture in global energy. Given the information provided by Baker Hughes in its latest release and conference call, however, I'm compelled to similarly recognize its CEO Chad Deaton and his team.

According to Deaton, among the significant benefits to the company -- which provides an array of products, services, systems, and consulting for exploration and production operators globally -- were "international margins (that) continued to improve … despite weather and geopolitical disruptions we made steady progress towards our goal of exiting 2011 with international operating margins in the mid-teens."

However, he also noted that, "The impact of higher oil prices has not been isolated to the international markets. In North America, on land, overall spending levels have increased as incremental spending on oil and liquids-rich natural gas plays has more than offset weakness in dry gas plays."

Gas slips behind
As a result, Baker's President and Chief Operating Officer Martin Craighead noted on the post-release call that last week Baker Hughes announced that the U.S. oil rig count has surpassed the units devoted to gas for the first time in 16 years. The trend is similar in Canada, as total rigs increased 25% from a year ago -- and 45% from the sequentially prior quarter -- working oil rigs increased by 57% year-on-year and 70% from the final quarter of 2010.

As result, the company's revenue in North America climbed 43% to $2.35 billion. An offshoot of that heightened activity is that Baker Hughes' pressure pumping is sold out on the continent. But as you might have expected, Gulf of Mexico profits slid sequentially, resulting in a 50 basis point margin reduction. Looking ahead, I'm not certain I agree with Deaton's expectation: "Offshore market will benefit from the resumption of deepwater activity in the Gulf …"

Resumption, yes, but a return to prior levels? Not likely in the short and/or intermediate terms. I'm crawling out on a limb and making that statement despite an announcement that even BP (NYSE: BP) expects to resume drilling in the Gulf this year, and the likes of Noble Energy (NYSE: NBL) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) have received permits to work in U.S. Gulf waters.

The Baker's travelogue
On the company's call, COO Craighead provided a superb tour of the company's areas of operations. In Brazil, "Activity … remains strong. Our teams there continue to push the limits of technology in the pre-salt reservoirs of the Luda field." In the Europe, Africa, and Russia Caspian segment, revenue was hit by Libya and seasonality in continental Europe. Nevertheless, in Russia, both Western Siberia and the Yamal Peninsula yielded significant contracts for Baker Hughes.

In Saudi Arabia, the company has developed an advanced underbalanced coil tubing drilling solution to benefit the kingdom's domestic gas demand. And in Iraq, following slower-than-expected drilling activity, the company reports seeing its "completion of production business flourish."

National Oilwell slides
While the results for National Oilwell Varco were somewhat less encouraging, my assessment of the Houston-based company prevents me from becoming excessively  forlorn about one quarter's results. Varco earned net income of $407 million, or $0.96 per share, down 7.5% from $440 million, or $1.05 per share, for the fourth quarter of 2010. Revenues were $3.15 billion, down 1% from the sequentially prior quarter.

The most recent quarter included write-downs related to the effects of Libya's upheaval on its energy sector, along with costs related to its $500 million acquisition of Advanced Production and Loading, a Norwegian producer of equipment for floating production, storage, and offloading vessels. Without those charges and write-downs, Varco's earnings for the quarter would have come to $422 million, or $1.00 per share.

Looking at National Oilwell Varco's three operations segments, Chief Financial Officer Clay Williams characterized the petroleum services and supplies group as having recorded "an exceptionally strong quarter," with "higher sales across almost all products we provide." The rig technology unit delivered seven new offshore rigs in the quarter and "benefited from increased demand for land rigs, coil tubing units and frac spreads." However, distribution services, which saw its revenues slide by 3% sequentially, is expected to post similar results in the current quarter.

While a demand for hydrocarbons likely will boost both Baker Hughes and ultimately National Oilwell Varco, I'm especially impressed by the strengthening of results at Baker Hughes in the face of numerous headwinds. On that basis, I recommend that energy-oriented Fools add the company to My Watchlist, our free, personalized stock tracking service.

National Oilwell Varco is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. The Fool owns shares of Schlumberger and ExxonMobil. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the above-named companies.  The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.