Now that big boys like ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) have finished announcing fourth-quarter and full-year results, it's time for the independents to show their hands. Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) led off Monday with a pretty respectable report.

For the year, Anadarko organically replaced 141% of production, excluding the negative effects of price revisions on reserve calculations. The firm arguably got a bit of a boost from hurricane shut-ins, but it certainly would have been happier to forego the Ike and Gustav show. Free cash flow for the year clocked in at just under $1 billion, and net debt dropped down to 34% of total capitalization.

The fourth quarter was naturally a less pleasant experience for Anadarko. Discretionary cash flow cratered 64% compared to the prior year, and didn't come close to covering capital expenditures. These mismatches are natural over such short time periods, though, and I'm not worried about a widening gap here.

While E&Ps like Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) are just now adjusting capex to live within their means, Anadarko operated this way when oil and gas prices were at their frothiest. Full-year 2008 capital expenditures came in at $4.9 billion, compared to $5.9 billion in discretionary cash flow.

Anadarko is thus closer to Apache (NYSE:APA) in its approach to capital budgeting. The two firms differ markedly when it comes to asset portfolios, however. Anadarko is much more of a "think global, act local" E&P, with 86% of costs incurred in 2008 directed toward domestic exploration, acquisitions, and development.

In a sense, Anadarko offers a fine balance between Chesapeake's low geopolitical risk and Apache's capital discipline. With a fine deepwater program as a kicker, this remains one of my favorite E&P names.

Chesapeake Energy is an Inside Value selection. See if any of our Foolish newsletters spin your drill bit with a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.