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Working in concert for the people of the UK

Release date:
14 May 2024
Louise Kingham, SVP Europe and Head of Country UK 

All-Energy Exhibition and Conference, SEC Glasgow

Louise Kingham, SVP Europe and Head of Country UK speaks at the All-Energy Exhibition and Conference, Glasgow.

Good morning everyone, it’s a privilege to be here with you all.


Hearing Jim speak - he used to be my chairman in another life so I always listened! – from me I think you can take urgency as read but you will hear more on agency and equity.


I will talk a little bit about my view of the transition, what we need in the near future, and why in the UK we should be more optimistic.


In 2020 when bp launched its new purpose, net zero ambition, and strategy to go from an International Oil Company to an Integrated Energy Company, I was still wagging my finger and calling for action from the relative comfort of the not-for-profit sector. 


When I left the Energy Institute to join bp the following year, it was on a wave of optimism about the transition. 


Our people were excited about the role we could play, particularly given our science and engineering capabilities, ability to finance projects and the breadth of our customer relationships.


But even in the heady days of 2021, when energy priorities were considered predominantly through the lens of climate, there was recognition in some quarters that the transition away from a hydrocarbons-based system would be difficult.


Our head of Technology compared it then to replacing all the veins in a human body. 


And if we’ve learnt anything since, it’s that it’s actually like replacing all the veins, getting something other than blood to flow through them and making sure each and every organ is adapted to prevent the body going into shock.


When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, we were faced with an unexpected threat to supply.


Disruption to just 3% of gas supply caused a six times increase in price, and suddenly our understanding of energy priorities was broadened again to take into account security and affordability. 


The shock made us realise that the system was more fragile than we thought.


And I think this reality check made all of us a bit pessimistic about the feasibility and the pace of the transition, given the seemingly competing policy demands.


Like many of you, at bp we thought that globally the transition would move faster than it has.


And so I get the apprehension some of you feel - and we all know the carbon budget is running out.


But by living through these experiences, in a short time we have moved away from a polarised conversation towards a pragmatic view that everyone has a role to play in creating an energy system which is lower carbon, secure and affordable to all.


Due to the cost of living, energy is as high on the mind of the British public as it’s ever been for 50 years.


Our industry therefore has a massive opportunity: it’s clearer than ever that energy is the lifeblood of society.

It’s because of the role we can play that I’m standing in front of you today.


Before (at the Energy Institute) I had influence; now I can actually direct investment.


We’ve got plans to invest up to £18 billion by the end of this decade to back Britain’s net zero ambitions and to keep energy flowing where it’s needed today.


As you will see on our stand outside, it’s about continuing our North Sea business with focus on safety, efficient production and reducing carbon emissions from our operations – which we’ve managed down by a third in three years.


And  it’s about adding more rapid and ultra-fast EV charging points to our bp Pulse network which is already one of the largest in the UK, and creating value through the future integration of our offshore wind and hydrogen projects.


And it’s about applying the 125 years of innovation expertise we’ve built up in our Castrol brand, to now produce EV fluids and also cool data centres – just one of the many important ways to help our customers decarbonise their own operations.


All sounds pretty simple then.


As I said earlier, we knew the transition was going to be difficult.


Though haven’t we done hard stuff in the past?


This year our North Sea oil and gas business is celebrating its 60th birthday.


60 years ago there was limited infrastructure.


There was limited technology.


Skills were immature.


And we certainly didn’t know as much then as we do now about offshore safety.


Now, you look at an industry that’s not just relevant to Aberdeenshire but which is the lifeblood of the Scottish economy with reach across the UK.


And which has sent Scottish accents all over the world!


So, when I think about the value of our business there, it’s not just about the energy we have produced.


It’s not just about the economic gain, the thousands of jobs and the skilled supply chain it has created.


I think about the people and the lives it has benefitted.


I think about the Pitcaithly family from Falkirk.


Three generations of Pitcaithlies have built their careers with bp.


The latest is Lara, a 23 year old apprentice on our Clair platform who aspires to work in the control room.


Her dad also works on nearby Clair Ridge, having started at Grangemouth.


However, she was first inspired to join as a girl when she would go to the station to meet her grandfather returning from offshore trips and would bombard him with questions, as kids do.


And now she’s the one answering the questions – talking to schoolchildren, sharing her experiences, and advocating for women to pursue careers in the industry.


These are the opportunities we should be determined to sustain. 


So as we continue with our plans for offshore wind in the Irish Sea and in the North Sea enabled by our relationship and investment with the Port of Leith, and as the diggers go in the ground for our planned hydrogen and CCS projects on Teesside, I hope that there too we are laying the foundations for the stories of families, stories that will be told 60 years from now. 

So what do we need to stay on track and create that legacy for future generations?


First, let’s build upon successful policy developments, like SAF mandates, the CCUS business model, and supply chain funds.


Let’s take the decisions to help de-risk investment, like on hydrogen blending.


Let’s halve the time it takes for blades to turn on wind farms, improving pace of permitting, planning and consents.


And, let’s continue to focus on people so we can gain the skills needed to build the infrastructure and develop the supply chains.


How do we replicate the strength of the North Sea supply chain in the low carbon energy industries?


How do we ensure fairness of opportunity in the transition?


And what more should the UK be known for – maybe as manufacturers of cables, reformers, compressors? 


While these are primarily questions of policy, they are also questions of leadership and communication, because we need everyone working in concert.


Because the ‘race to net zero’ really is just that.


It takes people in government to make the bold policy decisions informed by industry and others.


It takes regulators to create the world-class frameworks for businesses to make money and to satisfy the needs of customers.


It takes investors to want to finance projects.


It takes the will of NGOs and civil society to support the transition and keep challenging us.


And it takes customers to see the value in what it will provide.All of that is in the service of each member of society and every one of us in this hall.


Finally, let’s not forget that the UK already has an incredible transition story. 


We’re very good in this country at being modest or gloomy even when we are doing well; you wouldn’t think from the coverage of the transition that this year the UK became the first major economy to halve its carbon emissions – half way to net zero as we saw in Claire’s video. 


The UK has got there in part because with a clear net zero target we are a great place to invest.


We have first mover advantage in many new low carbon industries.


We can remain globally competitive on pace and the regulatory landscape.And I firmly believe Scotland can and will maintain its unique place in our industry.


If we can collectively navigate the twists and turns of this journey with people like Lara helping us through we will be well placed for the second half of the way to net zero.


And the task of continuing to adapt each organ of our system to run on the new lifeblood of lower carbon molecules and electrons will feel a little easier and much faster.


Thank you.