BP Makes Big Moves Away from Oil

August 4, 2020

Still frame of an avalanche.

Washington Post:

With climate change bearing down on the planet and the novel coronavirus upending the fossil fuel business, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies on Tuesday mapped out how it plans to navigate the next decade by radically cutting back on its oil and gas business.

The London-based BP said that it will transform itself by halting oil and gas exploration in new countries, slashing oil and gas production by 40 percent, lowering carbon emissions by about a third, and boosting capital spending on low-carbon energy tenfold to $5 billion a year.

“This makes the BP the first supermajor to spell out, in detail, what the energy transition will actually entail, in practical terms,” said Pavel Molchanov, senior energy analyst for the investment firm Raymond James.

While BP announced earlier this year its broad strategy shift to comply with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord, Tuesday’s earnings report specifically laid out for investors how much — and how soon — this would change the company. BP had in February — before the pandemic hit — vowed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but the new details show major impacts on its business by 2030.

“We believe our new strategy provides a comprehensive and coherent approach to turn our net zero ambition into action,” BP chief executive Bernard Looney said in a statement Tuesday. “This coming decade is critical for the world in the fight against climate change, and to drive the necessary change in global energy systems will require action from everyone.”

The earnings briefing on Tuesday also revealed more of the change in mind-set at the company once known as British Petroleum that gobbled up big rivals such as Amoco and Standard Oil of Ohio to bolster its reserves.

For investors, that means an immediate 50 percent cut in dividends, a significant hit for the British pension funds that rely heavily on BP’s quarterly payments to shareholders. But it will arm the company with more cash as the business reacts to climate change. And on Tuesday, investors applauded; at 10 a.m., BP’s shares jumped more than 6 percent, outpacing smaller gains among other oil companies.

It is also an admission of how profound the change in the oil and gas business has been. A dozen years ago, ExxonMobil set new profit records and was the envy of the market. Now, the company is no longer in the top tier. Microsoft is worth nine times as much, and Johnson & Johnson is worth twice as much in market value. ExxonMobil, which supplies gasoline to automobiles, is worth $180 billion, not even two-thirds the market value of Tesla, the maker of electric vehicles.

“Ever since it discovered oil in Iran in 1908, BP has been among the world’s leading oil companies. Now it aims to be something different — seeking to make an historic shift from being an IOC — an international oil company — to being an IEC — an integrated energy company,” Daniel Yergin, author of “The Prize” and “The New Map,” said in an email. “It will still produce oil, but with an increasing focus on renewables, electricity, and new technologies.”

This isn’t the first time BP has put significant sums into renewable energy. After the oil crises of the 1970s, the company sought to diversify. It became a leading producer of solar panels before selling its money-losing operations.

“But times change, and BP’s new tack is a striking response to today’s very different politics, policies and technologies,” Yergin said.

One aspect of the change in BP’s outlook is that it, like other big international oil and gas companies, has striven to keep its oil and gas reserves stable or even increase them. These reserves have been the heart of such companies. And BP has spent the past decade in a merciless reorganization to pay for damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico while hanging onto the company’s best production assets.

But now BP is changing again, and soon. Oil and gas production “is set to flatline through 2025 and then decline by 2030,” Molchanov said. “Together with opportunistic asset sales, volumes in 2030 are expected to be 40 percent below 2019 levels.”

Investment in low-carbon initiatives is set to jump to more than $3 billion by 2025 and $5 billion by 2030, “en route to 50 gigawatts of renewable generation capacity by 2030 alongside scale-up of other clean tech businesses,” Molchanov added.

Other oil giants seem to be struggling to stand still. Reeling from the pandemic and the economic downturn, ExxonMobil and Chevron last week reported sharp drops in earnings; Exxon lost $1.1 billion and Chevron lost $8.3 billion in the second quarter. Production fell 7 percent at Exxon and 3 percent at Chevron.

But unlike BP, they still plan to forge ahead much as they have since the late 1800s. In a call with investors, ExxonMobil highlighted its exploration and new production around the world, from Guyana to Abu Dhabi to the Permian Basin — even as big oil and gas companies are writing down the value of their oil and gas reserves as demand and prices swoon. And ExxonMobil is defending its dividend despite price and production pressures.

BP is trying to get ahead of what climate change might force the industry to do anyway.

Even the company’s critics have issued praise.

“BP is the first oil major that walks the walk instead of just offering ambitions for 2050, like its peers,” responds Mark van Baal of Follow This, a group of green shareholders that supports oil majors to commit to the Paris climate agreement with shareholder resolutions.

Van Baal said, “BP shows a sense of urgency and imagination beyond oil and gas.”

UPDATE: GreenTechMedia:

BP’s new net-zero details were revealed alongside a permanent halving of its shareholder dividend, a quarterly loss of $16.8 billion, and oil and gas exploration write-offs of $6.5 billion.

Shares in BP were up as much as 8 percent on Tuesday morning.

“If ever there was a moment to reset, this was it,” said Luke Parker, vice president of corporate analysis at Wood Mackenzie. 

So they wrote down assets, cut their dividend in half, announced a quarterly loss of almost 17 billion, AND made a huge play in renewables,
and their stock went – up.

Understand the concern that this whole thing is greenwashing.

The point I make is that Kodak invented digital photography, and surely thought they could “manage” the transition from film.  
It didn’t work out that way.  Technology and markets have their own ideas.


8 Responses to “BP Makes Big Moves Away from Oil”

  1. Reblogged this on The Most Revolutionary Act and commented:
    London-based BP said that it will transform itself by halting oil and gas exploration in new countries, slashing oil and gas production by 40 percent, lowering carbon emissions by about a third, and boosting capital spending on low-carbon energy tenfold to $5 billion a year.

  2. redskylite Says:

    We won’t see the atmospheric CO2 continuing upward trend change anytime soon – god only knows when it will peak, certainly not in our lifetimes. Even if B.P have seen the light and are making the right noises, there’s others who are ambitiously carrying on business as usual, ignoring climate change.


    “We treat the atmosphere like this big waste dump,” says Ralph Keeling, a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography whose lab runs the Mauna Loa long-term monitoring project of atmospheric CO2. “But when you throw something in the trash, it’s still in the landfill. It’s still out there. We can’t just sweep it away.”


  3. leslie graham Says:

    Well woop de effing doo. BP finally gets round to doing what they should have done in 1988. Forgive me if I don’t have raptures.
    That’s if you can believe a word these lying greenwashing scumbags say anyway.
    By the way, BP is based in London – that much is true – but they are mainly American owned now.

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I do think it’s plausible for them to make a quicker transition, despite the amount of greenwashing. They start leveraging their ocean engineering talent to take on more offshore wind projects, then the ambitious managers vie to transfer to the new growth portion of the company and the reluctant attitude toward renewable energy starts turning into actual practical and profitable bidniz, then…

    …then the old “toxic” assets are piled into one subsidiary which is cut adrift. This orphaned company subsequently declares bankruptcy, and society and other suckers are left to absorb the decaying hulk’s costs and losses. Meanwhile the parent company sails off into the sunset with their new, unburdened, capitalized tech in a growing market.

  5. fjohnx Says:

    As the author notes, this the second time British Petroleum asserts that BP stands for Beyond Petroleum.

Leave a Reply to fjohnx Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: