Oil heavyweight BP, one of the biggest players in the North Sea, has pledged to “reinvent” itself as a carbon neutral business by 2050 or sooner.
New chief executive Bernard Looney, who took the top job last week, has announced ambitious plans which he claims will “fundamentally transform” the group’s operations.
“The world’s carbon budget is finite and running out fast; we need a rapid transition to net-zero. We all want energy that is reliable and affordable, but that is no longer enough. It must also be cleaner,” he said.
The energy supermajor has unveiled plans which include offering customers a wider range of low and no-carbon products and reducing the methane intensity at its existing major oil and gas processing sites by 50 per cent.
BP’s strategy will also include increasing the proportion of investment it makes into non-oil and gas businesses.
The update follows on from similar commitments made by competitors Shell, Total, Equinor and Repsol to reduce their respective carbon footprints.
'Urgent unanswered questions'
BP’s worldwide operations currently emit around 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.
The net-zero policy will also cover carbon in the oil and gas that it produces, around 360 million tonnes of carbon equivalent.
This comes a week after BP reported its latest results and announced first oil at the Alligin field, west of Shetland, which is estimated to have some 20 million barrels of oil equivalent.
The group reported underlying replacement cost profit, its most watched measure, of $2.6 billion (£2bn) and increased shareholder dividend for the fourth quarter.
Critics were quick to point out that the company’s net-zero plans left many “urgent unanswered questions” and contained little detail on how to reach BP’s aims.
Charlie Kronick, oil adviser with Greenpeace UK, said: “How will they reach net zero? Will it be through offsetting? When will they stop wasting billions on drilling for new oil and gas we can’t burn?
“What is the scale and schedule for the renewables investment they barely mention? And what are they going to do this decade, when the battle to protect our climate will be won or lost?”
Luke Parker, vice president of corporate analysis at consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said: “This marks a major turnaround in BP’s position. Just 12 months ago former CEO Bob Dudley said the company could not be held accountable for how people use its products. Looney is taking the company in a very different direction.
“It’s an ambition, rather than a target, but the commitment appears to be unconditional. In terms of scale of commitment, this puts BP towards the top of the pack, along with Repsol and Equinor.
“But the transition to 2050 is a multi-decade transition - not something that will happen in the next year or so.”