'Back to petroleum' - 2007 results reveal the recarbonisation of BP

Last edited 5 February 2008 at 3:32pm
5 February, 2008

BP's full year results released today, show that the company carries a responsibility for emission of 1.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2007 [1], but the press release hides that worse is yet to come. Greenpeace and PLATFORM have discovered that BP is making a dramatic shift 'back to petroleum'.

Since the appointment of Tony Hayward as Group Chief Executive, BP has invested heavily in Canadian tar sands [2] and the company has substantially deprioritised BP Alternative Energy.

BP's purchase in December of 50 per cent of the Sunrise field in Canada ties the company into tar sands production until 2060. For a decade BP refused to enter the tar sands sector of the industry, with John Browne claiming that there were "tons of opportunities" elsewhere. This policy has now been reversed, locking BP into a substantially recarbonised production portfolio.

The environmental consequences of developing tar sands - bituminous deposits that contain sand, water and heavy crude oil - have been described by The Times as "breathtaking". The emissions involved in producing fuel from tar sands are many times that of conventional crude, because the extraction process itself is extremely energy-intensive. [3]

This is the last year in which the company will report on BP Alternative Energy in its current form. In October Hayward announced that the company would downgrade the BP Alternative Energy "business segment" to a "division" giving it a lesser status than the remaining two business segments, which will remain focused on fossil fuels. [4] Significant investment planned for BP Alternative Energy will be moved to other divisions.

PLATFORM today launched a website reporting on BP's full year results and revealing the decisions made by the company that have brought carbon dioxide to the atmosphere between 1997 and 2007 - see: www.carbonweb/burning.

John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace said: "2007 has seen a dramatic shift in BP's strategy, as the company that once claimed to be going 'Beyond Petroleum' now pursues a policy of recarbonisation under the new chief executive. The company once promised to stay away from the Canadian tar sands, so its recent investments are an alarming illustration of this dramatic shift, with huge repercussions for the climate. BP is not going beyond petroleum, it's going back to the worst kind of petroleum."

James Marriott of PLATFORM said, "BP's press release today lumps together Libyan oil and Canadian tar sands. This obscures the reality that tar sands are a new form of fuel with a dramatically higher embodied carbon content. The investment in the Sunrise field shows that BP is aggressively recarbonising. At the same time, BP Alternative Energy is being marginalised."


[1] PLATFORM's calculations (available on request) are based on BP's crude oil and natural gas production, refinery throughputs and product sales, figures from BP Fourth Quarter and Full Year Results 2007. Each type of fuel was converted to its emissions equivalent.

[2] BP Press Release: BP enters Canadian oil sands with Husky Energy, 5th December 2007 www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?categoryId=4705...

[3] The Times editorial, February 1, 2008: 'Big Oil vs Bad Oil. There is nothing wrong with making a profit, but Shell must stop drilling tar sands' www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/...

[4] BP Press Release: BP Sets Out its Agenda to Close Performance Gap with Rivals, 11th October 2007 www.bp.com/genericarticle.do?categoryId=2012968...


1. Graphs of BP's emissions from 1997 - 2007 are available from PLATFORM. Further references and data are available at www.carbonweb.org

2. PLATFORM today launched a website - www.carbonweb/burning - reporting on BP's full year results and revealing how the company has brought carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2007.

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