On Tuesday (6 February), the oil giant revealed that higher oil prices and growing crude production had pushed up full year underlying profits to $6.2bn, which group chief executive Bob Dudley described as “one of the strongest years in BP’s recent history”.

Dudley said that BP will seek to build on this momentum by “embracing… opportunities in a changing, lower-carbon world”. Around $500m of BP’s $15bn-$16bn capital expenditure programme will be invested in clean energy, according to the company’s strategy update.

But Dudley made it clear that hydrocarbons would remain at the heart of BP’s core business.

“It’s not a race to renewables, it’s a race to lower greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “As fast as renewables and clean energy can grow, faster than any fuel in history, the world is going to require oil and gas for some decades to come.”

Low-carbon race

Deputy chief executive officer Lamar McKay said the oil producer sees “significant commercial potential” in solar and is becoming more active in trading credits. Carbon targets, including one for methane, will be announced by BP in the next two months.

The UK-based firm recently returned to solar power with the $200m investment in solar developer Lightsource, and last week announced it will add rapid charging points for electric cars at its UK petrol stations within the next two months.

The shift followed a bigger move by BP’s Anglo-Dutch rival Shell, which has been on a buying spree of electric car infrastructure companies and has already opened charging points at its service stations.

BP’s latest investment plan is less ambitious than Shell, which has pledged to spend as much as $2bn on its new energies business. Shell has also announced plans to acquire a 43% stake in Silicon Ranch solar developers.

At a global level, Shell has doubled its spending on clean power and bowed to shareholder pressure by promising to halve the carbon footprint of the energy it sells by 2050.

George Ogleby

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