Chevron Corp reported a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Friday, lifted by the sharp rise in oil prices and the sale of its stake in a pipeline company.

But the company added a modest 240 million oil-equivalent barrels to its reserves during the year, only about 24 percent of the oil it produced.

It was an all-around good quarter, but the reserve replacement was weak, said Pavel Molchanov, analyst with Raymond James in Houston.

Profit rose to $5.3 billion, or $2.64 per share, from $3.1 billion, or $1.53 per share, a year before.

That easily beat the $2.41 per share that analysts had on average forecast, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue in the quarter rose 9 percent to $51.9 billion.

Profit from its upstream, or production arm, climbed 16 percent to $4.85 billion, while the downstream, or refining and transportation business, jumped to a $742 million profit from a year-ago loss.

Chevron is planning annual oil and gas production increases of 1 percent annually through 2014. Growth is expected to pick up to between 4 percent and 5 percent in the three years after that, but driven largely by massive Australian gas projects.

Chevron also added to its U.S. natural gas position in the fourth quarter with the announced purchase of Atlas Energy .

Given the relative strength of oil compared with natural gas prices, the San Ramon, California-based company is in the fortunate position of getting more than two-thirds of its overall current production from liquids, compared with just over half for sector leader Exxon Mobil Corp .

The U.S. benchmark oil price averaged $85 per barrel in the fourth quarter, up $9 from a year earlier. Natural gas went in the opposite direction, with average cash prices at the key Henry Hub delivery point down 12 percent from a year ago to around $3.80 per million British thermal units. (Btus)

As of Thursday's close, Chevron shares were up nearly 29 percent in the past 12 months, compared with a 22 percent gain for Exxon, which doubled its exposure to the depressed U.S. natural gas market through last year's purchase of XTO.

On Wednesday, smaller rivals ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum Corp posted higher profits and unveiled big capital spending increases.

Exxon unveils earnings on Monday, with BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc reporting later in the week.

Chevron shares were down nearly 1 percent in premarket trading.

(Reporting by Matt Daily, additional reporting by Braden Reddall in San Francisco, editing by Dave Zimmerman)