British oil and gas giant BP (NYSE: BP), which garnered a bit more attention than it might have liked from its April accident in the Gulf of Mexico, let the other oil majors report their results before discussing its own third quarter on Tuesday.

For the quarter, the company recorded $1.79 billion in profit, down 67% compared to last year's $5.34 billion. It also increased its reserves for expenses related to the Gulf spill by another $7.7 billion, bringing the total thus far to nearly $40 billion. If you back out the reserve, along with other items, however, BP's profit increased 18% to $5.53 billion.

As a result, while it didn't chalk up the earnings growth of ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), for example, it nevertheless joined most of its peers in beating analysts' expectations. Its total revenue rose 10% to $74.65 billion. At the same time, while the company spent nearly $11 billion on dividends last year, it still has not decided when to reinstate a dividend or at what amount.

Production for the quarter was down 4% year over year, to 3.8 million barrels of oil equivalents per day. Nevertheless, thanks mostly to higher realizations, upstream operations contributed 21% more in earnings than in the same quarter of 2009. Refining and marketing profits jumped by 95%, owing largely to a stronger downstream environment, along with gains on asset sales.

The tragic and expensive accident in the Gulf  may have one small silver lining for BP. Its management -- now led by CEO Bob Dudley, who replaced Tony Hayward on Oct. 1 -- has sorted through its assets with an eye toward raising as much as $30 billion through non-core property sales. Apache (NYSE: APA) has already bought assets in the U.S., Canada, and Egypt. And last week, BP said it was selling deepwater fields bought earlier from Devon (NYSE: DVN) to Japan's Marubeni.

But don't get the idea that the company is being gutted. In response to a question on BP's call Tuesday, CFO Byron Grote said that there was no intention of increasing the sales target. But as he noted, "There is great interest in the assets in the BP portfolio." Grote added, almost proudly, "But it is, in the current environment, a seller's market."

Grote clearly was also proud at the end of his prepared remarks, when he said: "I am encouraged by how well our businesses have continued to perform...These results demonstrate both the strength of our underlying business and assets, and the determination of our employees to move the company forward."

It's not predictable how much the Gulf spill will ultimately cost BP, or whether it'll be able to collect on the $4.6 billion it has already billed to Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC) and Mitsui & Co., its partners on the blown-out well. And while Dudley has admitted that there's "a long road" ahead for the company, it's difficult not to be impressed by the new focus of the management team. On that basis alone, I suggest close attention to BP from Fools with a yen for stocks in the increasingly important energy sector.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named in this article. The Fool owns shares of Devon Energy 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.