Hundreds of billions of barrels of oil stranded by weak demand could accelerate companies’ pivot to cleaner energy, or threaten their long-term survival.
BP Plc raised the possibility of stranded oil assets when it announced this month it would take the biggest writedown on the value of its business in a decade. But it wouldn’t be the only oil company to leave crude in the ground as the pandemic ravages energy consumption. About 282 billion barrels of undiscovered oil is at risk of being stranded as the virus hastens peak demand, according to Rystad Energy AS.
“It does start to have significant implications for how some of these companies are making their investment decisions,” said Jennifer Rowland, an analyst at Edward D. Jones & Co. “Some companies are starting to make investment decisions today and starting to pivot either towards shorter-cycle projects like shale or pivot towards renewables.”
BP has already acknowledged that production will decline in the long term, and said whatever is pumped in 2050 “will have to be de-carbonized.”
And French oil major Total SA has already started its pivot to renewables. Will other companies follow suit? If they don’t, they may have trouble getting access to the financing they need to keep the drills running over the next few decades, as lower demand locks their resource in the ground, according to Rowland.
“There is going to be skepticism about what really is the terminal value of a lot of those assets,” she said. “It makes their investment proposition that much more of a challenge.”
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