Image: ConocoPhillips
Lisa Poole  /  AP
A customer fuels up his car at a Phillips 66 gas station Monday in Woburn, Mass. ConocoPhillips says low natural gas prices and thin margins from its gasoline refining business sent its profit tumbling 71 percent in the third quarter.
updated 10/28/2009 12:30:38 PM ET 2009-10-28T16:30:38

ConocoPhillips said Wednesday that low natural gas prices and thin margins from its gasoline refining business drove profits down 71 percent in the third quarter, but the oil company is ramping up production as crude prices jump.

It is the second big oil company in as many weeks to report that oil production has grown as the industry recovers from a severe slump in energy prices over the past year.

ConocoPhillips, based in Houston, did not emerge unscathed. Earlier this month the company said it would sell $10 billion worth of assets to pay down debt and cut capital expenditures next year by 12 percent.

The third-largest U.S. oil company said it made $1.5 billion, or $1 per share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30 compared with profit of $5.2 billion, or $3.39 per share, in the year-ago third quarter when oil and natural gas prices had peaked at record levels.

Revenue totaled $41.3 billion, down from $71.4 billion in the year ago quarter.

The economic downturn, particularly at home, continues to be a drag on operations.

ConocoPhillips said it cut production of North American natural gas in late August because of low prices and that production at refineries that process fuel was cut back because of weak margins and meager demand.

Still, oil production was up, primarily because of new production from projects in the United Kingdom, Russia, China, Canada as prices for oil have more than doubled to nearly $80 a barrel since bottoming early this year.

The company said through September production increased nearly 100,000 barrels a day to 1.86 million barrels a day. For the quarter, total production, including the company's share of Russian oil company Lukoil, was 2.2 million barrels a day and worldwide refining oil capacity utilization rate was 90 percent.

ConocoPhillips shares fell $1.45, or 2.5 percent, to $49.45 Wednesday. The shares have traded between $34.12 and $57.44 over the past year.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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