Seven of the largest oil companies in the world have written down a collective US$87 billion from the value of their oil and gas assets over the past nine months, as commodity prices slumped in the pandemic, an analysis by climate finance think-tank Carbon Tracker quoted by the Guardian showed.

In the past three months alone, the companies Chevron, Shell, BP, Total, Repsol, Eni, and Equinor wrote down a total of US$55 billion off the value of their assets, the analysis showed.

Many of those companies posted losses for the second quarter when global oil demand crashed by 20 percent due to the lockdowns in the pandemic. With the notable exception of U.S. supermajor Exxon, all five Big Oil recalibrated the value of their oil and gas assets in the second quarter due to the crash in oil prices and expectations of depressed demand for at least several more quarters.

Shell booked an impairment charge of US$16.8 billion post-tax as it revised its price assumptions and market fundamentals. Total booked US$8.1 billion impairments – of which US$7 billion in Canada’s oil sands – as it cut its short-term price expectations. 

“Total has now recognised that some of its oil and gas assets cannot be produced as the world decarbonises, a belated but welcome development for those worried about risks to both the environment and their investments,” Andrew Grant, Carbon Tracker’s Head of Oil, Gas and Mining, said, commenting on Total’s write down. Related: Lithium-Ion Battery Production Set To Quadruple This Decade

Chevron also booked impairments – at a total of US$5 billion, including US$1.8 billion, mostly associated with downward revisions to its commodity price outlook; it also reported its worst quarterly results in three decades.  

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BP also booked impairments, halved its dividend, and pledged to reduce its oil and gas production by 40 percent by 2030 as part of its strategy to reinvent itself from an International Oil Company (IOC) to an Integrated Energy Company (IEC). 

Carbon Tracker’s Grant commented on BP’s announcement:

“BP has radically changed the game. In the arms race of emissions announcements, most oil and gas peers have conveniently ignored the global need to produce and use less oil and gas – BP’s production cut of 40% by 2030 makes them unquestionably the industry leader.”

Carbon Tracker sees the U.S. supermajors as laggards in announcements referring to emissions and the energy transition, while Norway’s Equinor may have too high long-term oil price outlook at $80 a barrel Brent, which it has not changed since the pandemic-driven crisis, Grant told The Guardian.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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