Whiting Petroleum Corporation's (WLL) unleashed its second-quarter earnings report after the market closed on Wednesday. In that report, the shale-focused driller unveiled a number of surprises for investors. Here are the top three that investors need to know.

1. Surprise: We made money!
Before the report, the consensus among Wall Street analysts was that Whiting Petroleum would basically break even during the quarter on an adjusted earnings-per-share basis. However, Whiting earned $9.2 million, or $0.04 per share, which was quite a surprise. Still, earnings per share were down 97% from the year-ago quarter, so there's not a whole lot to celebrate.

Among the drivers of the surprising profit was better-than-expected production and lower expenses. Overall, Whiting did a solid job cutting costs, with its lease operating expenses falling from $11.85 per barrel of oil equivalent, or BOE, last year to $9.25 per BOE this quarter. Meanwhile, general and administrative expenses fell from $3.13 per BOE to $2.46 per BOE over the past year.

2. Surprise: We outproduced our guidance!
As I already mentioned, Whiting Petroleum delivered surprisingly stronger production during the quarter. In fact, its production set a new record at 170,245 BOE per day, which was 2% higher than last quarter and exceeded the high end of the company's guidance. That performance comes even as it sold 8,300 BOE/d worth of oil and gas properties during the quarter. It's the second time this year the company's production exceeded the high end of its guidance.

Two factors are fueling this stronger-than-expected production. First, the company's Williston Basin operations have been testing larger sand volumes for completions, which is resulting in a 40% to 50% surge in initial production against the previous completion method. The other big driver is the company's DJ Basin field, which delivered a 31% production increase from just last quarter.

3. Surprise: We're cutting our just-increased capex budget!
The final surprise might have investors scratching their heads at first glance. That's because just two weeks ago, the company increased its capital budget from $2 billion to $2.3 billion as a result of selling $300 million in assets so far this year. However, it has decided to pull back the reins on its capex budget a bit, as it now plans to spend only $2.15 billion.

As a result of the reduction, the company expects to run eight drilling rigs during the second half of the year, down from the 11 in the original plan. Further, full-year production growth is expected to be 6.5%, as opposed to the previous plan for 7% production growth. The company doesn't specify a reason for the reduction, but it probably isn't due to financial constraints, as the company boosts of strong liquidity consisting of undrawn borrowing capacity of $4.5 billion on its credit facility, as well as future plans for additional non-cash asset sales. Instead, the cut probably has to do with the slide in the price of oil over the past few weeks, as crude has now fallen more than 20% off its recent peak.

Investor takeaway
Suffice it to say it was a surprising quarter for Whiting Petroleum. However, most of the surprises were quite good, as better-than-expected production and profitability are what investors want to see. The only unsettling surprise was how quickly the company pulled the plug on most of its recently increased capex budget. That said, given how much the price of oil changed last week, it's probably best to leave that oil in the ground until the company has more clarity on its future price.