UPDATE 1-Noble Energy's profit beats on higher sales volumes, low costs

(Adds sales volumes, analysts' estimates)

Feb 20 (Reuters) - Oil and gas producer Noble Energy Inc's quarterly profit breezed past analysts' estimates as U.S. sales volumes surged and the company kept a tight leash on expenses.

A rise in global crude prices, led by OPEC cuts, has prompted oil and gas companies to ramp up production. U.S. crude prices averaged $55.30 per barrel in the last quarter of 2017, up 12.2 percent from a year earlier.

Noble's total operating expenses nearly halved to $740 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, as exploration costs fell by 90 percent.

Total sales volumes from U.S. onshore rose 40.5 percent to 104,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, and prices realized per barrel rose by $7.14.

Net income attributable was $494 million, or $1.01 per share, compared with a loss of $252 million, or 59 cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, Noble earned 32 cents per share. Analysts on average had expected 4 cents profit, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The Houston-based company's total revenue rose 19 percent to $1.2 billion.

The company's shares were up 2.7 percent at $26.98 in premarket trading. (Reporting by Ahmed Farhatha in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)