updated 4/25/2006 4:23:28 PM ET 2006-04-25T20:23:28

Oil company BP PLC said Tuesday its profit fell 15 percent in the first quarter as a drop in oil and gas output, a Texas refinery shutdown and higher taxes offset gains from soaring world oil prices.

BP, the world’s second-largest oil company by market capitalization, posted a first-quarter net profit of $5.6 billion, down from $6.6 billion a year earlier.

Revenue rose 23 percent to $67.1 billion, largely thanks to higher oil prices, with North Sea Brent contracts — a key crude benchmark — rising by 30 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

The impact of closed oil platforms following last year’s big hurricane season showed in the slowing of production in the quarter to 4.035 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, compared to 4.101 million in the same period last year.

BP said its Texas City refinery, shut down last year as a precaution before Hurricane Rita in September, was stepping up production.

“The Texas City refinery is now running at 200,000 barrels per day and further units will be brought onstream across the balance of 2006,” said Chief Executive John Browne.

The refinery, BP’s largest in North America, has a 460,000-barrel-a-day capacity. It restarted gasoline production a week ago and is now running at 200,000 barrels a day.

In the Gulf of Mexico, the Mars platform — jointly owned with Royal Dutch Shell PLC — is yet to reopen after Hurricane Katrina passed through in August. Shell, which owns a 71.5 percent stake to BP’s 28.5 percent, said last week that it planned to resume output there in early May.

BP’s global output was also hurt by lower production at its Russian joint venture TNK-BP, which reflected the impact of production-asset disposals and of extremely cold weather in the first quarter.

Brown said that the company’s actions to control costs are on track and the financial results were affected by higher tax charges.

Quarterly replacement cost profit, a key indicator for analysts, was $5.3 billion. That was better than analysts’ consensus forecast of $5.1 billion but down from $5.5 billion in the same quarter of 2005.

The measure excludes exceptional items and gain in the value of inventory holdings, providing the amount it would cost to replace assets at current prices.

BP’s first-quarter profit last year was boosted by $1.1 billion in divestments, including the sale of its 10.34 percent stake in Ormen Lange, a natural gas field off Norway’s continental shelf.

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