BP's Downstream consists of three main businesses: fuels, lubricants and petrochemicals. Together, those sum of parts expect to deliver more than a $3 billion increase in earnings between 2016 and 2021, through a strategy that relies on market-led growth. Over the next two decades, rising prosperity and a growing middle class consumer base support an increase in global energy demand. This also means continued demand growth for BP's primary products.
Aerial view of the BP Gemlik lubricants plant in Turkey
Put simply, oil and gas operations that take place after the production phase are described as 'downstream' activities.
BP's largest refinery in the world is Whiting - a sprawling, 1,400-acre complex on the Lake Michigan shoreline in the US. It can produce enough gasoline each day to support the average daily fuel needs of more than seven million cars.
Operational excellence sits at the heart of BP's downstream strategy. When the 11 refineries, 15 petrochemicals manufacturing plants and 25 lubricants plants run efficiently and at full capacity, they deliver optimal value for the business. Across all those sites, staff work hard to maintain safe and reliable operations, prevent unplanned shutdowns and optimize performance. In 2017, BP's refining availability averaged more than 95%.
Operators look across BP's Whiting Refinery in Indiana, US, at sunset
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BP's premium fuels and lubricants are designed for today's modern, hard-working engines. Pressures, temperatures and stresses on all parts of the engine are higher than ever in the drive for greater vehicle efficiency. Since the launch of BP's latest Ultimate fuels with ACTIVE technology in 2016, sales of premium fuels have grown by 20%, improving by 6% in 2017 alone.
A fuels engineer working on an engine test cell at BP's Technology Centre in Pangbourne, UK
BP's retail stations keep drivers fuelled, as well as their vehicles. There are now some 1,100 convenience partnership sites worldwide, with a growth of more than 220 in 2017. Partnerships with leading retailers such as Marks & Spencer in the UK, REWE To Go in Germany, Pick N Pay in South Africa provide customers with food 'for now' and 'for later'.
An employee from BP Marks and Spencer refilling the fridge in the store located at a UK service station
With 18,300 fuel stations worldwide, BP is set to bring fuels to more customers by expanding in growth markets. In 2017, BP said 'hola' to Mexico as the first international oil company to open a branded retail network there since the deregulation of the fuels market began in 2013. By 2021, there are plans to build some 1,500 new sites in the Latin American country. New retail joint ventures in Indonesia and China will also follow.
An illuminated service station forecourt in Guangdong, China
BP makes lubricants for almost every conceivable use on land, sea and even outer space. Brands such as Castrol EDGE, GTX and Magnatec are familiar to customers around the globe - but they all start off in the laboratory where scientists respond to the latest consumer trends, government policy and engine developments to create the products.
The answers don't all lie behind closed doors though. BP works alongside major vehicle manufacturers, such as Land Rover, TATA and Volkswagen, to develop and deliver the latest lubricant technology. It also has a network of more than 2,000 distributors and around 150,000 independent workshops to service customers.
Air passenger traffic is forecast to grow at more than 3.5% per year out to 2035 - that's effectively doubling in size over the next two decades. Air BP is one of the world's largest suppliers of aviation fuel products and services - and calls some of the world's major airlines its customers.
BP jet fuel powered the first non-stop flight from Australia to the UK in March, with Air BP refuellers pumping the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to capacity at Perth airport before its milestone journey.
Under-wing refuelling of a commercial plane at Adelaide airport in Australia
Through its direct operations, Air BP fuels more than 6,000 flights every day – that is more than four aircraft every minute or one every 15 seconds
Found in everything from soft furnishings to clothing, plastic bottles to LCD screens, PTA (or purified terephthalic acid to call it by its full name) is a household staple the world over. And it's just one of the products manufactured by BP's petrochemicals business that operates at 15 sites globally. Along with PTA, BP also markets paraxylene (PX), acetic acid, methanol, olefins and other speciality chemicals in more than 40 countries. These raw materials are then transformed into dozens of consumer items.
With its proprietary technology in this field, BP is instrumental in petrochemicals development. It is showing what's possible in reducing emissions: for example, the technology deployed in the ultra-efficient Zhuhai 3 plant in China delivers 65% lower greenhouse gas emissions than the manufacturing process for conventional PTA technology of the 1990s.
Operator performs quality control checks on the bagged PTA at the Cooper River chemical plant, South Carolina, US
BP's downstream businesses are also adapting for a lower carbon future. For example, the advanced mobility unit is exploring opportunities presented by electrification, connected cars and autonomous vehicles.
Earlier in 2018, the venturing business invested $5 million in FreeWire Technologies, a US-based manufacturer of mobile electric vehicle rapid charging systems. There are plans to roll out FreeWire’s Mobi Charger units for use at selected BP retail sites in the UK and Europe this year.
FreeWire mobile electric vehicle charging on a BP forecourt in London, UK
BP's downstream staff the world over make all the difference. There are some 40,000 people working across fuels, lubricants and petrochemicals who are committed to becoming the industry's leading downstream business.