Exxon signals strong Q3 earnings on natural gas pricing

The Exxon Mobil Corp building is pictured in Georgetown, Guyana February 18, 2022. REUTERS/Sabrina Valle

HOUSTON, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) on Tuesday signaled strong third quarter operating profits on the heels of the prior quarter's all-time high as earnings from natural gas offset weaker refining and chemicals, according to a securities filing.

The largest U.S. oil producer issued a snapshot of factors affecting its third quarter that showed results could land near the company's $17.9 billion second quarter profit.

Exxon and rivals this year have posted sky-high earnings on rising energy prices and demand aided by cost-cutting. Gas prices, in particular, have soared this year on strong demand from Europe since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In the third quarter, U.S. natural gas prices averaged $7.95 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), up from $7.17 mmBtu in the second quarter. Brent prices eased to $98 per barrel in the same period, from an average of $109 between April and June. Exxon's official results are due on Oct. 28.

The snapshot showing more stellar profits comes after Exxon Chief Executive Darren Woods and U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm clashed over White House criticism of fuel prices last week.

In a breakdown of individual business units, Exxon indicated natural gas boosted operating results by about $2 billion, offsetting an about $1.6 billion decline in oil profits. Earnings from pumping oil and gas could reach about $13 billion, compared to Wall Street's forecast of a $10.1 billion operating profit.

Weak refining margins reduced profits from selling gasoline and diesel by about $2.6 billion, offset by lower maintenance costs and an additional business day during the quarter. Operating profit could fall to about $3.4 billion from $5.3 billion in the second quarter, the filing indicated.

Chemical results also will slip by about $300 million from the prior period's $1.07 billion operating profit, and motor oil results will double to about $800 million, offsetting the chemicals drop, the filing showed.

Overall, a tally of changes show an operating profit of about $17.8 billion, above IBES Refinitiv forecast of a $14.68 billion, or $3.44 per share, profit. Exxon earned $17.9 billion, or $4.21 per share, an all time record, in the prior quarter.

Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Cynthia Osterman

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