Marathon Q4 Profit Almost Doubles

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Marathon Oil said its fourth-quarter profit surged to $706 million from $355 million a year earlier as higher oil prices and improved refining margins helped bolster the results. Marathon said fourth-quarter gross margins for its refining-and-marketing segment were 8.99 cents per gallon, nearly 15 times more than a year earlier, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Texas-based Marathon (MRO) plans to spin-off its refining business later this year. The company is forecasting average daily production in 2011 of 380,000-400,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. Average production in 2010 was 391,000 barrels per day.

Marathon said it plans to spend $1 billion on unconventional exploration projects this year, almost half its 2011 exploration and production budget, and added that the figure could rise to $1.5 billion in 2012. The company raised its overall capital-expenditure budget to $5.27 billion for the year, up 9% from 2010, the Journal reported.

Marathon is looking to the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, the Anadarko Wofford Shale in Oklahoma and the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas as ways of boosting its unconventional production.