International oil major Chevron Corp.  (CVX) reported third quarter earnings Friday, Nov. 2, of $2.11 per share on $42 billion in revenue, beating analysts' earnings estimates of $2.06 per share but missing expectations of $46.67 billion in sales.

San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron's results far exceeded its third quarter effort in 2017 when it reported 83 cents per share in earnings on $36.2 billion in revenues, according to FactSet Research Systems Inc. The company said third quarter earnings more than doubled from a year ago, reflecting higher production and crude oil prices coupled with a "continued focus on efficiency and productivity." 

Chevron's upstream segment reported $3.38 billion in earnings, versus $489 million in earnings in the third quarter of 2017. Chevron's upstream earnings may speak to the improving outlook for the international oil industry. 

The bulk of the company's upstream profits came from international oil drilling operations, which provided $2.55 billion in earnings, while the U.S. upstream segment added $828 million in earnings. In the third quarter of 2017, Chevron's international upstream business provided just $515 million in profits, while the U.S. upstream business recorded a $26 million loss. Upstream refers to drilling; downstream refers to refining.

With the exception of a sizable drop in international profits, Chevron's downstream segment was little changed from last year. The refining operations pulled in $1.37 billion worth of profits, versus $1.8 billion in the same period of 2017, with the U.S. business earning $748 million and the international business earning $625 million. In the same period last year, the U.S. business had profits of $640 million, while the international unit had profits of $1.17 billion. 

Investor interest in the oil and gas space has yet to be revitalized in 2018 despite much stronger average oil prices, leading operators to focus on returning cash to shareholders. Last quarter, Chevron's stock largely avoided the backlash of an earnings miss by announcing plans to repurchase $3 billion of stock a year going forward. 

And while the company's third quarter earnings report Friday may leave something to be desired, Chevron chairman and CEO Michael Wirth pointed out that quarterly cash flow from operations of $9.6 billion in the third quarter was the highest it has been in nearly five years. 

"This allowed us to pay the dividend, fund our capital program, strengthen the balance sheet, and repurchase $750 million of the company's common stock," he said.