UPDATE: 11:44 a.m.
ExxonMobil Corp.'s first-quarter profit grew 69% over the year-earlier period on higher fuel prices and a record performance in its chemicals sector, the company said April 27.
Earnings were $10.7 billion, or $2.14 a share, in the quarter, compared with $6.3 billion, or $1.33 a share, during the same period last year.
Higher oil and natural gas prices increased earnings by nearly $2.6 billion, the company said.
Chemicals earnings reached $1.5 billion, up from $1.2 billion in the year-earlier period, driven by stronger commodity margins.
Exxon's chemicals business is benefiting from low natural gas prices, said David Rosenthal, the company's vice president of investor relations, in an earnings call. U.S. chemicals producers are taking advantage of historically low natural gas prices driven by production from unconventional sources, including shale rock.
But Rosenthal said future demand in Exxon's chemicals sector will be outside the United States, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
Natural gas production rose 22% in the quarter to 14,525 millions of cubic feet per day. The company attributed the increased production to additional unconventional gas volumes in the United States and project ramp-ups in Quatar.
Earnings from upstream operations, which includes exploration and production activities, was $8.7 billion, up from $5.8 billion in the year-ago period.
Downstream earnings from refining and market sales reached $1.1 billion.