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BP focuses on being part of the solution

The major has embarked on a significant PR drive around its commitment to the energy transition

BP is ramping up efforts to highlight how it is investing to make a “rapid shift” towards meeting climate change goals, focusing on how it will be “part of the solution” to the challenge of delivering global low carbon economy. 

The firm has of late seen climate change protesters causing delays on an oil rig heading out to one of its North Sea fields and high-profile artists challenging BP’s wide-ranging UK arts sponsorship programme. At stake more widely, though, is increasing concern over traditional oil and gas companies’ ‘license to operate’, as urgency over how quickly the world must decarbonise focuses the minds of consumers, investors and policy makers around the globe. 

Speaking at a recent London event in London highlighting how BP is deploying a range of technologies that will help it decarbonise its oil and gas production processes, Gordon Birrell, BP’s upstream chief operating officer for production, transformation and carbon, says the company is committed to “big changes”. 

As economies grow, as lifestyles change and people raise themselves out of poverty, BP wants to be part of providing energy to the world,” says Birrell. “We support rapid shift towards lower carbon energy system–that means big changes to companies like BP.” 

Production and carbon emissions are “inextricably linked”, he continues. “In the process of producing, there is so much opportunity across our industry and inside our company to reduce emissions at the same time. I deeply believe BP can and will be part of the solution in terms of a low carbon economy. That will support our licence to operate for the long term.” 

Paris Agreement

In order to meet 2015 Paris climate change targets, global energy production needs to shift towards electricity powered by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, supported by gas combustion to manage the intermittency of renewables, which is in turn cleansed by carbon capture and storage (CCS), according to Stephen Pacala, the Frederick D Petrie professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University, speaking at the same event. 

BP’s view of a low carbon future was “in that direction”, says Birrell. “What we are in support of is net carbon zero in the second half of the century. Whatever the investment is required and whatever it takes to be in that direction of travel, BP is supportive of that.” 

BP is taking a blended approach to low carbon through a framework headlined “reduce, improve, create” (RIC). The showcase at BP’s international centre for business and technology (ICBT) in Sunbury featured some of the “reduce” approaches, including the continuous methane emission monitoring technology that BP plans to roll out to across new plants. 

Gas cloud imaging (GCI) cameras and sensors mounted on drones are the sort of technologies BP will deploy to keep emissions of methane–a potent greenhouse gas–under 0.2pc. However, while the technologies being put into use have been three years in development, it could take up to ten years for GCI, which has been trailed in BPs Khazzan field in Oman, to be rolled out to all BP sites. 

Investment into methane monitoring such as sensor-enabled drones will come from the $1.5bn BP spends on maintaining assets. And GCI cameras will become part of major project capital on new build sites. 

“For me, the important thing is avoiding methane emissions in the first place, and the amount of effort we put into maintenance and inspection,” says Burrell. “It is incorporated in many other budgets. That is the reality.”

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