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BP leader says industry must embrace dual challenge of producing energy while lowering emissions

Release date:
May 9, 2019
The world will continue to need more energy and companies like BP will have to produce it differently and smarter than in the past, said Gordon Birrell, BP chief operating officer, production, transformation and carbon, at a keynote speech at the 2019 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston.

Birrell started by describing the need to continue making the industry safer – “it is at the heart of everything we do in BP.”


“In addition to improving safety, what I hope becomes clear from my remarks are the two other themes that I see as crucial to the successful future of our industry,” Birrell said. “We need to work hard to bring down costs, as we’ve done over the last few years. The second is low carbon.”


Birrell, speaking at a session called, Advancing the Energy Transition: Meeting Energy Demand While Reducing Emissions” gave an overview of the energy landscape saying the fastest-growing energy source is now renewables which are very important in the future. 

“Many oil and gas companies, including us, are developing options: like wind, solar, biofuels– as they present exciting business opportunities.” he said.

Birrell said, renewables are also coming from a very low base – making up less than 5 percent of the current fuel mix and despite rapid growth, BP projections suggest renewables might make up 15 percent of the mix by 2040.

“The dual challenge cannot be about a race to renewables, it has to be a race to lower emissions,” he said. “The reality is that the world will need many sources of energy, including oil and gas.”


Being Competitive

Birrell said the industry needs to continue to invest in oil and gas but said not every molecule in the ground is going to be developed.

“There is something like 5 trillion barrels of oil equivalent of technically recoverable oil and gas resources, more than enough to meet the world’s projected demand to 2050.”


He said regardless of future demand, without investment, natural decline could see existing reserves diminish at a rate of around three to five percent each year.


Modernize and Transform

“At BP, a key pillar of our approach to competitiveness is modernization and transformation,” he said. “Our program has three pillars: embracing digital, working in increasingly agile ways and changing mindsets.”Birrell cited BP’s Apex program saying the simulation and surveillance system creates a virtual copy of BP’s production systems throughout the world.


“It means every pipe, every valve, every vessel is modelled,” he said. “That allows us to do optimization runs offline. And we can then implement change in the field to maximize value.”


Collaboration and Standardization

Birrell said cost efficiencies can be gained by working together.


He described the Joint Industry Project 33 in which 12 leading energy providers are working to standardize the specifications used when procuring equipment. 


“Instead of bombarding suppliers with different sets of requirements – we’ll all use common specifications,” he said. “That will make life easier and deliver benefits in safety, in quality, in reliability, in schedule, and in cost.”


Lower Carbon

He said the industry must continue to bring down emissions.

“At BP, we are really focused on this,” he said. “Take our Khazzan project in Oman, which is expected to produce around 40 percent of the country’s total gas supply.”

He said that by building a central processing facility that reduces the need for equipment at each well site, BP has lowered the potential for gas emissions.

And, Khazzan gas is used to power the facility as well as generate electricity on site to power some of the equipment, wasted head is then used in the process facility, making it highly efficient.
Birrell said BP is working to improve efficiency, to lower costs and to also lower emissions.

“So, to bring them together, we are developing the offshore platform of the future,” he said, which increasingly would tend to be “simple and smaller, operated mainly onshore, with fewer people onboard and partly be powered by electricity from renewables.”


Possibilities Everywhere

“I’ve only been able to offer a snapshot of all the great work our teams are doing,” he said. “We need to keep reducing carbon emissions”
Birrell said it will not be easy to accomplish.

“There’s certainly more we can all do, we have to modernize, we have to transform, we have to collaborate,” he said. “But we do have all the right ingredients: the skills, the technology, the willingness. And if we bring them together, we can make the most of possibilities we see everywhere.”