ConocoPhillips (COP.N), the third-largest U.S. oil company, reported a much higher-than-expected quarterly profit on strength in its refining business, sending its shares up 2 percent.

I would say about 90 percent of the upside was because of their downstream, said Oppenheimer analyst Fadel Gheit. They ran their refineries well.

Conoco, which plans to split off its refining arm next year, reported a third-quarter profit of $2.6 billion, or $1.91 per share, on Wednesday, compared with $3.1 billion, or $2.05 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, the Houston company posted a profit of $2.52 per share, topping the Wall Street estimate of $2.18.

Conoco said higher taxes and losses on asset sales hurt results.

Refining and marketing earnings nearly tripled from a year earlier to $789 million, helped by higher margins.

Shares of Conoco were up 2 percent at $72.10 in trading before the market opened. (Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)