Chris Lau, Kapitall: Oil and gas stocks like BP give investors a foothold on the energy sector. But are they worth the risk?BP (BP) reached a 52-week high after reporting quarterly earnings last week. In revealing a strong desire to return cash to shareholders, a disciplined exploration strategy, and less uncertainty with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP made itself out to be on the way to a recovery. There are a number of reasons that may support this view. Click on the interactive chart to see BP price data over time. Sourced from Zacks Investment Research. Cost discipline BP is running the business more conservatively. It is continuing to exercise a capital discipline, which makes the company’s results more predictable. BP said that it expects capital expenditures (capex) in 2014 to be at levels similar to this year. This will be in a range of $24 – $25 billion. Read more on Energy from Kapitall: Drill Baby Drill: 8 Cash Rich Energy Stocks After 2014, BP expects capex will rise no higher than between $24 – $27 billion annually for the next decade. Dividend increase A 5.6% dividend increase starting December 2013 is another reason to consider BP as an investment. BP will need to maintain healthy cash flow this quarter, and to support a future increase in dividend payments. Healthier balance sheet To reduce its debt level, BP divested $38 billion. The proceeds will be used to buy back shares and to support additional distributions to shareholders. As of October 25, BP spent $3.8 billion buying back its shares. One of its biggest divestments this year was TNK-BP. The sale netted around $12 billion in net cash proceeds.