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We expect independent oil refiner and marketer Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC - Analyst Report) to beat expectations when it reports first quarter 2013 results before the opening bell on Tuesday, Apr 30.

Why a Likely Positive Surprise?

Our proven model shows that Marathon Petroleum is likely to beat earnings because it has the right combination of two key ingredients.

Positive Zacks ESP: Earnings Expected Surprise Prediction or ESP (Read: Zacks Earnings ESP: A Better Method), the difference between the Most Accurate estimate of $2.19 and the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.14, stands at +2.34%.

Zacks Rank #2 (Buy): Note that stocks with Zacks Ranks of #1, 2 and 3 have a significantly higher chance of beating earnings. The Sell rated stocks (#4 and 5) should never be considered going into an earnings announcement. 

The combination of Marathon Petroleum’s Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and +2.34% ESP makes us confident in looking for of a positive earnings beat this release.

What's Driving Better-than-Expected Earnings?

Marathon Petroleum is the fifth largest domestic refiner with a combined crude oil processing capacity of approximately 1,193,000 barrels per day through its portfolio of six refineries. A major advantage for the company is its proprietary access to pipelines, which inhibit lower-cost competitors from supplying to Marathon Petroleum's key markets.

Marathon Petroleum delivered solid earnings results in the fourth quarter, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 8.13%. In fact, it delivered positive earnings surprises in 3 of the past 4 quarters, leading to a positive average earnings surprise of 10.55%.

Additionally, Marathon Petroleum’s recent purchase of BP plc's (BP - Analyst Report)Texas City refinery – one of the largest and most complex in the country – will help the company to solidify its position in the fuel export business, apart from increasing production flexibility.

Moreover, the company possesses one of the healthiest balance sheets among peers and a robust free cash flow generating ability. The ongoing buyback program highlights Marathon Petroleum’s commitment to create value for shareholders.

Other Stocks to Consider

Here are some other energy firms that warrant a look as these have the right ingredients to report earnings beat this quarter:

Exterran Partners L.P. (EXLP - Snapshot Report) has an earnings ESP of +4.35% and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

SemGroup Corp. (SEMG - Snapshot Report) has an earnings ESP of +28.95% and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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