There isn't a thing oil companies can do about oil prices, which made the third quarter a tough one, given that prices plunged more than 20% during the quarter. So most oil producers focused their attention on the things they could control, and those that did the best job delivered solid quarterly results, all things considered. One company that was clearly in control of what it could control was Laredo Petroleum (NYSE:LPI), which reported a better-than-expected third-quarter profit. Here are the three numbers it controlled really well, enabling it to accomplish that feat.

1. Driving 16% production growth
After adjusting for a non-cash impairment charge, Laredo Petroleum earned $15.4 million, or $0.07 per share, which was $0.01 per share better than the consensus estimate. One of the drivers of that earnings beat was the strong production growth it delivered during the quarter, with production up 16% over last year.

An important factor leading to this strong production growth was the company's focus on using technology to drill better wells. Investments to build its Earth Model are starting to really pay off, as the company notes that six of the wells drilled using the Earth Model are outperforming its oil type-curve expectations by more than 20%. This is enabling the company to drill better wells that are delivering stronger production and improved drilling returns.

2. Delivering a 28% reduction in costs
Another important factor driving its performance during the quarter is that Laredo's cash costs on a barrel of oil equivalent, or BOE, basis, have plummeted 28% year over year to just $12.15 per BOE. Thanks to efficiency gains, the company has substantially reduced its water handling and disposal costs, while it has also reduced field electricity costs by working with electric service providers to build infrastructure directly to its facilities. Clearly, these efforts are paying off and helping to take a little bit of the sting away from weak oil and gas prices. 

Cost reductions have been a big reason a number of Permian Basin producers were able to stay profitable last quarter despite really weak oil prices. Concho Resources (NYSE:CXO) was one such producer, reporting stronger-than-expected quarterly results, with adjusted net income of $39.3 million, or $0.33 per share, which was $0.09 per share better than the consensus estimate. Not only was Concho Resources' production stronger than its own guidance, but its costs also continue to fall. Concho Resources now expects its lease operating expenses this year to be in a range of $7.50 to $7.75 per BOE versus its prior guidance of $7.50 to $8 per BOE.

3. Capturing $33.86 per barrel via hedges
While oil companies can't control oil prices, they can control their exposure to oil price volatility by hedging production. Laredo hedges a larger portion of its production than most of its competitors, which is a move that really paid off last quarter. Its oil price hedges added $33.86 per barrel to its realized oil price during the quarter, which when combined with its lower costs really improved its margin per barrel. The company also has strong hedges in place for 2016, with 85% of its production hedged at an average floor price of more than $70 per barrel.

Hedges were also a key to Concho Resources' success during the third quarter. Its realized price per barrel of oil would have been just $43.82 during the quarter, which is roughly half the $86.05 it realized in the year-ago quarter. However, with derivatives, that captured price went up to $61.23 per barrel.

Investor takeaway
Laredo Petroleum's third-quarter report was filled with numbers, but investors need only focus on three. The combination of 16% production growth and a 28% decline in costs when combined with $33.86 per barrel of oil in hedging gains added up to a strong third-quarter showing. Further, more production growth and additional cost savings in the works, when added to a strong hedge portfolio, puts Laredo in a strong position to control its destiny in 2016.

Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.