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Cenovus Energy Inc. said Thursday its third-quarter earnings more than doubled from a year earlier, as production from two of its steam-driven oil sands projects jumped 25 per cent.

The Calgary-based oil company said its net earnings were $223-million, or 30 cents per share, compared to $101-million, or 13 cents per share, in the same 2009 period.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were on average expecting earnings of 29 cents per share.

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Revenues after royalties were more than $3.1-billion, up from just over $3-billion a year earlier.

"The company's upstream operating and financial performance is meeting or exceeding expectations, driven by higher-than-anticipated production at our oil sands operations and lower-than-projected operating and capital expenditures," said chief executive officer Brian Ferguson.

Production at Foster Creek and Christina Lake rose to 58,107 barrels per day from 46,672 barrels per day during the quarter.

Downstream operations, which include interests in two U.S. refineries, fell short of Cenovus' expectations during the quarter, with operating cash flow $127-million lower than in the third quarter of 2009.

The decrease in that segment was due to higher crude costs, a power outage at its Wood River refinery in Illinois and maintenance work at its Borger refinery in Texas.

Cenovus is a relatively new name in the oil patch, having split off from natural gas producer Encana Corp. at the end of last year. The company has said it aims to produce 300,000 barrels of bitumen per day by 2019 - five times its current output.

It has regulatory approval to build three new 30,000-barrel-per-day phases at Foster Creek, south of Fort McMurray, Alta.

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In addition to Foster Creek, Cenovus is in the midst of expanding its Christina Lake project, just to the north. Two new phases there are expected to add 40,000 barrels per day, with the first coming on next year and the next in 2013.

A regulatory application has also been filed for the 130,000 barrel-per-day Narrows Lake project, which could begin production as soon as 2016.

Foster Creek, Christina Lake and Narrows Lake are part of a 50-50 joint venture with Houston-based energy giant ConocoPhillips, which ties Cenovus production to two of the U.S. firm's refineries.

All Cenovus oil sands developments use steam to liquefy the sticky bitumen deep underground so it can be more easily drawn to the surface.

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