Earnings soared at Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS-A) in the third quarter, as the well-documented appreciation in oil and gasoline prices produced one of the most profitable three months in any public company's history. Shell earned $9.39 billion, or $1.35 a share, in the quarter, up 67% from last year's $5.62 billion, or 80 cents a share. The latest period included a gain of $1.77 billion related to the sale of a Dutch pipeline and certain gas contracts. Shell's top line rose 8% to $77.44 billion. The stock added $1.90, or 3.2%, to $61.40 on Instinet. In Shell's exploration and production unit, earnings rose 112% from a year ago to $4.98 billion, including the $1.77 billion gain, a performance that reflected "strong oil and gas price realizations and divestment gains partially offset by lower volumes and higher costs." Before the gain, the segment's earnings rose 27% from a year ago. Using standard industry accounting that adjusts for current replacement costs, Shell's retail oil products division earned $1.73 billion in the third quarter, compared with $1.53 billion a year ago. "Higher earnings due to strong refining margins and improved trading results were partially offset by lower marketing earnings." Shell expects to produce 3.5 million barrels of oil equivalent a day this year, including the impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For 2006, it sees production at the low end of its 3.5 million to 3.8 million barrels range.