During the first quarter of 2008, a group of 32 global oil and gas companies covered by Evaluate Energy Ltd., a U.K. consulting firm, posted a 4% decrease in production of crude and natural gas liquids, and a 5% increase in natural gas production. According to Eoin Coyne, senior analyst and author of the report, supermajors dragged down oil production totals during the first quarter due to their exposure to expropriations of Venezuelan assets and cuts in entitlements from production-sharing contracts. Conversely, natural gas production was aided during the same period by several significant field start-ups, including Dolphin in Qatar (which benefited Total and Occidental Petroleum) and Ormen Lange in Norway (Shell, ExxonMobil and StatoilHydro). Additionally, acquisitions boosted gas production rates for XTO Energy, El Paso Corp. and ENI. The net result was nearly flat production on an oil-equivalent basis. Rising oil and gas prices were directly responsible for a 57% surge in upstream earnings, rather than increases in production levels. At the same time, capital expenditures by Evaluate Energy's group shot sharply upward. From $40.4 billion spent on E&P activities in first quarter 2007, the group invested $54.5 billion in first quarter 2008. The jump was largely due to rising costs across the industry. Evalute Energy's Oil & Gas Review for Q1 2008 is available to the public. Click here to read a copy of the report. by Peggy Williams, Senior Exploration Editor, Oil and Gas Investor Contact me at pwilliams@hartenergy.com