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In this July 22, 2011 photo, pumps at a Phillips 66 gas station display the company logo in Omaha, Neb.

Nati Harnik/The Associated Press

ConocoPhillips Co. reported a lower third-quarter profit on Thursday that beat analysts' estimates, as it produced more crude than expected from high-margin fields such as the Eagle Ford and Bakken.

Conoco and other large oil companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. have been investing more heavily in North American shale formations like the Eagle Ford in south Texas and the Bakken in North Dakota in a bid to boost higher-priced oil production.

"The ramp up in the Eagle Ford is on track or exceeding the market's expectations," said Fadel Gheit, oil analyst at Oppenheimer. "They delivered on everything they said they would, and more."

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Third-quarter profit was $1.8-billion (U.S.), or $1.46 per share, compared with $2.6-billion, or $1.91 per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Excluding items related to asset sales and taxes, the Houston-based company had a profit of $1.44 per share. Analysts on average had expected $1.19.

Oil and gas output in the quarter was 1.53 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE), down from 1.54 million a year earlier. Analysts at Barclays had forecast 1.52 million BOE per day.

Conoco said its fourth-quarter production will increase on a sequential basis, as the company speeds the pace of drilling in the Eagle Ford and more output is expected from its Canadian oil sands properties.

"Our projects and drilling programs continue to perform, our exploration activities are building momentum and our asset sales are progressing," Ryan Lance, Conoco's chief executive, said in a statement.

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