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BP’s oil exploration team swept aside in climate revolution


LONDON: Nothing escapes the winds of change now sweeping through BP, not even the exploration team that for more than a century powered its profits by discovering billions of barrels of oil.

Its geologists, engineers and scientists have been cut to less than 100 from a peak of more than 700 a few years ago, company sources said, part of a climate change-driven overhaul triggered last year by CEO Bernard Looney.

“The winds have turned very chilly in the exploration team since Looney’s arrival. This is happening incredibly fast’’, a senior member of the team said.

Hundreds have left the oil exploration team in recent months, either transferred to help develop new low-carbon activities or laid off, current and former employees said.

The exodus is the starkest sign yet from inside the company of its rapid shift away from oil and gas, which will nevertheless be its main source of cash to finance a switch to renewables for at least the next decade.

Looney made his intentions clear internally and externally by lowering BP’s production targets and becoming the first oil major CEO to promote this as a positive to investors seeking a long-term vision for a lower-carbon economy.

BP is cutting some 10,000 jobs, around 15 per cent of its workforce, under Looney’s restructuring, the most aggressive among Europe’s oil giants including Royal Dutch Shell and Total.

The 50-year-old, a veteran oil engineer who previously headed the oil and gas exploration and production division, aims to cut output by 1 million barrels per day, or 40 per cent, over the next decade while growing renewable energy output 20 fold.

Despite the changes, oil and gas will remain BP’s main source of revenue until at least 2030.

And Looney’s drive to reinvent BP has done nothing to boost its shares, which hit their lowest level in 25 years late in 2020 and dropped 44 per cent in the year, mostly over doubts whether it will be able transform and make the profits it aims for.

The change marks the end of an era for exploration teams from Moscow and Houston to BP’s research headquarters in near London, with farewell gatherings held on Zoom in recent months, they added. — Reuters

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