Oil giant BP soared to mammoth third-quarter profits of $10 billion (£6.4bn) as the firm reaped the benefits of record prices.

The company's huge haul for the July-September period is a whopping 148% above the same period last year. Its profits came as crude oil prices hit a new peak above $147 a barrel in mid-July.

The profits are likely to spark fresh protests from motorists and businesses who have felt the pain at the petrol pump this year.
Oil prices have since fallen by more than half their July peak to just above 60 dollars a barrel as global recession fears mount, despite moves by oil cartel Opec to cut production.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward said: "Although it has since fallen away sharply, the high oil price of the third quarter obviously helped our absolute result."

The company averaged a selling price of more than $111 a barrel, compared to just 71 dollars in the same period last year.
Stripping out exceptional gains, BP's underlying "clean" profits of $8.9 billion (£5.7bn) shattered City expectations.
Despite the boost from record oil prices, Mr Hayward maintained that BP had also benefited from an improved operating performance.
Increasing production from major projects more than offset the impact of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico during a period in which BP produced 3.66 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, up 5% on an underlying basis year-on-year.

Mr Hayward said the company was well-set to weather the storm of a global recession and the prospect of falling oil prices.
"I believe that BP is well-positioned to cope with such volatility. Our balance sheet is strong and we have committed less of our portfolio to high-cost options like tar sands and gas conversion than some of our peers.

"We think the current turmoil may in fact create opportunities for us and we will look at those very closely," he added.

The oil firm - which expects to spend up to $22 billion (£14.1bn) on capital investment this year - counts major investors such as pension funds among its shareholders.

BP has upped its dividend payments, which are around 60% higher than a year ago in sterling terms, and Mr Hayward said the firm was delivering on its promises to shareholders.

"Our aim remains unchanged - to grow that dividend through time in line with our view of future sustainable performance... We are steadily and methodically meeting our promises," he added.

Union leaders and politicians angrily attacked the level of profits announced by BP and one Labour MP said he would be raising the issue in Parliament by calling for a windfall tax.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) said: "This is a grotesquely obscene level of profiteering by BP and I will be calling in Parliament for price controls and profit windfall taxes."

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "We have been calling on the Government and the financial authorities to curb speculation in the oil market which has wreaked havoc in the real economy and stoked up inflation.

"Now we see the result of this speculation with BP enjoying huge windfall profits. The public authorities have got to get a grip and stop this speculation."