Profits at oil giant BP have more than doubled from a year ago on the back of rising oil prices.

Replacement cost profit for January to March was $5.6bn (£3.6bn), compared with $2.4bn for the first quarter of 2009 – a 135 per cent rise.

The profit figure is also up from the $3.45bn profit made in the last three months of 2009.

BP has benefited from rising global oil prices, which averaged $76 a barrel in the first three months of 2010.

That compares with an average of $41 a barrel a year ago.

Although demand for oil has remained relatively weak, the price of oil has been boosted by optimism over the recovery in the global economy, and speculation by traders.

BP said oil production in the past year had remained broadly flat, and production in 2010 as a whole was expected to be slightly lower than in 2009.

The company also gave an update on the oil spill currently being tackled in BP's Gulf of Mexico oil fields.

It said that improvements in the weather had allowed it to accelerate its clean-up programme.

'This, combined with the light, thin oil we are dealing with has further increased our confidence that we can tackle this spill offshore,' said BP's Chief Executive,Tony Hayward.