BP saw its net income increase by 48 per cent to $6.58bn for the three months to the end of March, while Shell’s profit rose by 12 per cent to $7.85bn.

Income at BP’s exploration and production division jumped to $10.07bn, compared with $7.87bn for the fourth quarter of 2007, with its rest of the world unit, which covers Middle East, growing by a quarter.

Shell, which is investing as much as $20bn developing its Pearl gas-to-liquids project in Qatar, says higher gas production volumes and the benefit of higher oil and gas prices helped lift its profits.

Shell saw its refining and fuel marketing profits drop by 20 per cent due to a collapse in crude processing margins, while BP saw its refining and marketing net income increase to $1.2bn from a loss of $1.2bn for the previous quarter, due to a lift in its aviation fuel and lubricants division.