(Reuters) – U.S. shale producer ConocoPhillips beat Wall Street estimates for first-quarter profit on Thursday as sustained fuel demand and tight crude supplies kept oil prices elevated.

Benchmark Brent crude averaged $81.24 a barrel in the first three months of 2023, nearly 20% lower than last year but still well above levels that allow oil and gas producers to drill profitably.

Crude prices had surged to multi-year highs last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended global energy markets.

The company’s total average realized price was $60.86 per barrel of oil equivalent (boe) for the reported quarter, 21% lower than last year.

The largest U.S. independent oil company said first-quarter production was 1.79 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), an increase of 45,000 boepd from the same period a year earlier.

Excluding items, ConocoPhillips reported a profit of $2.38 per share, for the three months ended March 31, compared with analysts’ average estimate of $2.10 per share, according to Refinitiv data.

(Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)