Big Oil undermines UN climate goals with $50bn of new projects: report

Report found that 18 newly approved oil and gas projects worth $50 billion could be left “deep out of the money” in a lower carbon world. (Reuters)
Updated 07 September 2019

Big Oil undermines UN climate goals with $50bn of new projects: report

  • Carbon Tracker says 18 new projects “deep out of the money”
  • Companies risk “wasting” $2.2 trillion by 2030

LONDON: Major oil companies have approved $50 billion of projects since last year that will not be economically viable if governments implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, think-tank Carbon Tracker said in a report published on Friday.
The analysis found that investment plans by Royal Dutch Shell, BP and ExxonMobil among other companies will not be compatible with the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“Every oil major is betting heavily against a 1.5 degree Celsius world and investing in projects that are contrary to the Paris goals,” said report co-author Andrew Grant, a former natural resources analyst at Barclays.
Big oil and gas companies have welcomed the UN-backed Paris Agreement, in which governments agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or “well below” 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
Scientists view 1.5 degrees Celsius as a tipping point where climate impacts such as sea-level rise, natural disasters, forced migration, failed harvests and deadly heatwaves will rapidly start to intensify if it is breached.
Carbon Tracker’s analysis, co-authored by Mike Coffin, a former geologist at BP, found that 18 newly approved oil and gas projects worth $50 billion could be left “deep out of the money” in a lower carbon world.
The projects include Shell’s $13 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) Canada LNG project, a $4.3 billion oilfield expansion project in Azerbaijan owned by BP, Exxon, Chevron and Equinor, and a $1.3 billion deepwater project in Angola operated by BP, Exxon, Chevron, Total and Equinor.
The report also concluded that oil and gas companies risk “wasting” $2.2 trillion by 2030 on new projects if governments apply stricter curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.
Previous reports on the implications of climate change for oil and gas companies by Carbon Tracker and other researchers have contributed to a wave of investor pressure on majors to show that their investments are aligned with the Paris goals.
While some companies including Shell, BP, Total and Equinor have increased spending on renewable energy and introduced carbon reduction targets, the sector says it needs to continue investing in new projects to meet future demand for oil and gas as Asian economies expand.
Shell said in a statement that it has set out an “ambition” to halve net carbon emissions by 2050 “in step with society as it moves toward meeting the aims of Paris.”
“As the energy system evolves, so is our business, to provide the mix of products that our customers need,” Shell said.
BP said its strategy to produce low cost and low carbon oil and gas was in line with the International Energy Agency (IEA)forecasts and the Paris agreement.
“All of this is aimed at evolving BP from an oil and gas focused company to a much broader energy company so that we are best equipped to help the world get to net zero while meeting rising energy demand,” the company said in a statement.
Exxon, Chevron, Equinor and Total did not reply to requests for comment.
Nevertheless, the latest Carbon Tracker report said the big oil and gas companies spent at least 30% of their investment last year on projects that are inconsistent with the path to limit global warming to even 1.6 degrees Celsius.
“These projects represent an imminent challenge for investors and companies looking to align with climate goals,” the report warned.
Carbon Tracker’s calculations were based on three scenarios produced by the Paris-based IEA models of oil and gas supply under different warming pathways.
With fossil fuel supply on course to outstrip demand if the world is to limit warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report assumed that the projects with the lowest production costs would be the most competitive.
“Demand for oil can be satisfied with projects that break even at below $40 per barrel and pursuing higher-cost projects risks creating stranded assets that will never deliver adequate returns,” the report said.
Benchmark crude futures were trading at around $62 per barrel on Thursday.


Aramco profits fall in tough quarter, but sees partial recovery from COVID-19 impact

Updated 33 min 53 sec ago

Aramco profits fall in tough quarter, but sees partial recovery from COVID-19 impact

  • Aramco see’s “partial recovery” from pandemic impact
  • Aramco president says company remains resilient

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, reported a net income of $6.57bn for the second quarter of 2020, the period which witnessed the most volatile oil market conditions for many decades.

The result, announced to the Tadawul stock exchange in Riyadh where the shares are listed, compared with income of $24.7 bn last year.

Amin Nasser, president and chief executive, said: “Despite COVID-19 bringing the world to a standstill, Aramco kept going. We have proven our financial resilience and operational reliability, setting a record in our business operations, while at the same time taking steps to ensure the health and safety of our people.”

Aramco’s dividend - a big attraction for the investors who bought into the world’s biggest initial public offering last year - will remain as pledged, Nasser added. Cash flow in the quarter amounted to $6.106 bn.

““Strong headwinds from reduced demand and lower oil prices are reflected in our second quarter results. Yet we delivered solid earnings because of our low production costs, unique scale, agile workforce, and unrivalled financial and operational strength. This helped us deliver on our plan to maintain a second quarter dividend of $18.75 billion to be paid in the third quarter,” he said.

Aramco said the loss was “mainly reflecting the impact of lower crude oil prices and declining refining and chemicals margins, partly offset by a decrease in production royalties resulting from lower crude oil prices and a decrease in the royalty rate from 20 per cent to 15 per cent, lower income taxes and zakat as a result of lower earnings, and higher other income related to sales for gas products.”

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Sales and revenue in the period - which saw oil prices collapse on “Black Monday” in April - fell 57 per cent to $32.861 bn from the comparable period last year. 

Nasser said he was cautiously optimistic that the world economy was slowly recovering from the depths of the pandemic lockdowns.

“We are seeing a partial recovery in the energy market as countries around the world take steps to ease restrictions and reboot their economies. Meanwhile, we continue to place people’s safety first and have adapted to the new normal, implementing wide-ranging precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19 wherever we operate.

“We are determined to emerge from the pandemic stronger and will continue making progress on our long-term strategic journey, through ongoing investments in our business – which has one of the lowest upstream carbon footprints in the world,” he added.

Aramco expects capital expenditure to be at the lower end of the $25bn to $30bn range it has already indicated for this year.