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By Anna Driver
HOUSTON, Feb 7 (Reuters) - U.S. oil and gas company Apache Corp (APA.N) said on Thursday fourth-quarter earnings doubled, driven by an 8 percent jump in production and record oil prices.
Exploration and production companies have benefited from a surge in the price of crude oil. Oil prices averaged more than $90 a barrel during the quarter due to tight supplies, geopolitical risks and the weak dollar. In the same period of 2006, oil prices averaged just over $60 a barrel.
"It was a very strong quarter, strong across the board," Fadel Gheit, oil analyst with Oppenheimer & Co., said. "Obviously the story is really strong oil and natural gas prices."
Shares of Apache climbed 1 percent, or $1.07, to $96 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Net income in the quarter rose to $1.07 billion, or $3.19 a share, from $519 million, or $1.56 a share, in the year-earlier period.
Apache's fourth-quarter adjusted earnings were $2.92 per share, which easily topped the average analyst estimate of $2.45 per share, according to Reuters Estimates.
Revenue in the quarter climbed to $3.01 billion from $1.97 billion a year earlier.
Fourth-quarter production averaged 574,646 barrels oil equivalent per day, up 8 percent from the prior-year period.
In the 2007 fourth quarter, Apache received $83 per barrel of oil, up 52 percent from a year earlier. The company received $5.65 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) of natural gas, up nearly 18 percent from a year-ago.
Apache said it added 343 million barrels oil equivalent of reserves from all sources in 2007.
Citing changes made to royalty rates in Alberta, Apache said it will redirect spending in Canada, focusing activity on shallow gas areas. Medium-depth gas and oil drilling activities in Alberta will be reduced, the company said.
Looking ahead, Apache said its expects improvement in natural gas prices in Australia and Argentina to help future results.
And growth in the company's exploration prospects in Australia, Canada and Egypt will help Apache add production of more than 100,000 boe per day by 2011, the company said. (Editing by Dave Zimmerman)