The Suncor Energy oilsands plant north of Fort McMurray, Alta. The company said sales from its oilsands operations declined in the third quarter. ((Canadian Press))

Third-quarter profits in the oil patch were all over the map, three reports from leading companiesindicate.

Among three of the leading producers, there was a profit drop, a virtually flat quarter and a gain for the three months ended Sept. 30, the companies said Thursday.

EnCana Corp. said profittumbled 31 per cent, to $934 million US ($1.24 a diluted share) from$1.36 billion ($1.65 a diluted share) a year earlier.

Suncor Energy Inc. said profit slidaslight $5 million to$677 million ($1.47ashare), compared to $682 million ($1.48 a share) in the third quarter of 2006.

Petro-Canada's profit was$776 million ($1.59 a share),compared with $678 million ($1.36 a share) a year earlier.

The differences reflect the companies' different mix of operations, including natural gas, oilsands and offshore businesses.

Profit varies with operations

EnCana reported higher operating and depletion charges, but the single biggest factor wasa gain of$304 millionon the sale of a Brazilian asset last year. There was no comparable item this year.

Cash flow — a key indicator of an energycompany's financial performance —was up 27 per cent to $2.2 billion, based on higher natural gas production and price hedges that offset lower prices, the company said.

It also said itsdownstream oilsands business did well.

"Our financial and operating performance is on track for 2007," president and CEO Randy Eresman said in a release.

Suncor said its profit dip "was primarily due to a reduction in oilsands
sales volumes" because of a planned maintenance shutdown in July, and more product purchases.

Petro-Canada's strong quarter resulted from higher production volumes from projects in the North Sea, offCanada's East Coast and in Alberta's oilsands. Third-quarter production averaged 436,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day,up from333,000 in 2006.

"This is shaping up to be a good year for us," Ron Brenneman, president and CEO, said in a release.

Petro-Canada stock rose 29 cents to $53 in TSX trading, EnCana gained $1.02 to $64.41 and Suncor added $1.46 to close at $102.75.

Encana revenue was $5.60 billion, compared with $4.03 billion in the year-earlier period.

Suncor revenue was$4.67 billion, compared with $4.11 billion.

Petro-Canada did not report revenue.