Energy stocks are looking pretty energized to start 2018.

In the first trading session of the new year, the energy sector is starting off on top, with the highest proportion of gainers to losers of any broad market sector. On average, energy stocks are up 1.65% Tuesday, as of this writing.

That's a welcome change for energy investors. After all, the energy sector was the only sector in the S&P 500 that actually lost value in 2017. But as oil and gas companies push higher as a group this afternoon, it's crucial to remember that not all energy plays are created equal. In fact, one oil and gas supermajor stands out from the rest of the pack as we head into 2018 trading.

I'm talking about $241 billion supermajor Chevron Corp. (CVX) .

Chevron beat the rest of the sector in a big way last year, putting up total returns of around 12% for 2017. That fell short of the broader market's big performance numbers last year, but it was dramatically higher than the rest of the energy sector.

But things are starting to get even more interesting here—Chevron is actually beating the rest of the market right now.

And shares look primed to keep on charging higher from here.

To figure out how to trade it, we're turning to a technical look at Chevron's chart.

Chevron is currently bouncing its way higher in a very well-defined channel, a bullish continuation pattern that's about as simple as they get. The uptrend in Chevron is nothing new. But the fact that it's holding up very well right now means that more upside is the high-probability trade for CVX.

That's being confirmed in the shorter-term too.

Within the context of its uptrend, Chevron has repeatedly consolidated sideways, followed by a breakout higher. We're seeing a short-term breakout today that puts Chevron on a collision course with lifetime highs up around the $135 level. It's unlikely that level goes untested on this run higher.

Meanwhile, in case you're wondering why Chevron is the play to make in the energy space, this chart sums it all up:

The chart above shows the Chevron-to-Exxon Mobil (XOM) ratio. In other words, an upward trend to the chart means that Chevron is systematically outperforming its biggest peer, Exxon, right now. That's certainly the case as we head into 2018.

While other big oil stocks are also pointing higher this January, Chevron is likely to keep on outperforming its peers in the months ahead.

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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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