PetroChina's natural gas production soared in the third quarter while its oil output rose less than 1 per cent, according to the results released yesterday. Fitch Ratings upgraded the mainland's biggest oil company from A-minus to A after the announcement and analysts said the results showed PetroChina was in a better position than most of its peers. 'PetroChina's oil and gas production and average realised oil price are modestly ahead of our estimates,' Goldman Sachs analyst Huang Shumin said. Its gas production grew 32 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier to 257 billion cubic feet but oil production increased just 0.9 per cent to 198.8 million barrels, reflecting dwindling domestic reserves. PetroChina benefited from the jump in global oil prices and the mainland's 2.1 per cent yuan revaluation on July 21, which raised the US dollar value of its China sales. The firm's average realised crude prices surged nearly 51 per cent year on year in the quarter and 48 per cent for the first nine months. Its realised gas prices rose just 3.5 per cent from a year earlier but sales volumes grew dramatically, 'mainly driven by its increased natural gas market share', Ms Huang said. PetroChina's refining operations processed 184.2 million barrels of crude oil in the quarter, 7.3 per cent more than a year earlier despite state-directed price controls. The government is reforming its price-capping system but is worried about the potential for inflation and social unrest. The firm's Hong Kong-listed shares ended up 0.84 per cent to close at $5.95 yesterday. The stock has gained 43 per cent this year on rising oil prices.