Colossal fossil BP has cut its oil and gas exploration team from more than 700 geologists, engineers, and scientists to fewer than 100, as new CEO Bernard Looney begins reorganizing the company’s operations in response to the climate crisis.
“Hundreds have left the oil exploration team in recent months, either transferred to help develop new low-carbon activities or laid off,” Reuters reports, citing current and former employees. “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.”
“The winds have turned very chilly in the exploration team since Looney’s arrival,” one senior team member told the news agency. “This is happening incredibly fast.”
“The atmosphere was brutal,” a former employee said last year.
The abrupt shift in emphasis “marks the end of an era for exploration teams from Moscow and Houston to BP’s research headquarters in Sunbury near London, with farewell gatherings held on Zoom in recent months,” Reuters writes. The staffing changes had not been announced in public, and BP declined comment on the story.
But “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,” writes reporter Ron Bousso. “BP is cutting some 10,000 jobs, around 15% of its work force, under Looney’s restructuring, the most aggressive among Europe’s oil giants including Royal Dutch Shell and Total.”
So far, the company has not recovered from a 44% drop in its share price in 2020.
Even so, Looney is planning to cut BP’s daily oil output by a million barrels per day over the next decade, while increasing its renewable energy production 20-fold. That leaves the company’s mostly gutted exploration team narrowing its search to new resources near existing oil and gas fields, aiming to offset production declines in those established wells while keeping costs to a minimum.
“We are in a harvest mode, and what isn’t being said is that BP is going to be a much smaller company without exploration,” one insider told Reuters.