BP’s oil exploration team has been cut down to 100 people from its peak of more than 700 as part of the company’s effort to prioritize climate change.
Hundreds have left the oil exploration team in recent months under the leadership of CEO Bernard Looney — either having been transferred, laid off, or reassigned to new projects related to low-carbon activities, current and former employees told Reuters.
“The winds have turned very chilly in the exploration team since Looney’s arrival. This is happening incredibly fast,” a senior member of the team said.
This change marks one of the first signs that the company formerly called “British Petroleum” is trying to permanently move away from oil and gas and towards sources of renewable energy, which has been one of Looney’s goals.
Last year, BP announced its intention to become a net zero emissions company by 2050 or sooner, and Looney claimed it would be able to do so without sacrificing returns.
Shareholders, however, weren’t convinced by Looney’s pitch, and BP saw its share price drop to a 25-year low shortly after his announcement in February of last year.
Looney has continued to pursue his plan regardless.
BP has begun cutting 10,000 jobs, around 15% of its workforce, and it plans to cut output by 1 million barrels per day, or 40%, over the next decade.
Looney also cut the exploration budget to around $350 million per year.
In 2010, the company’s exploration budget was $4.6 billion.
“The atmosphere was brutal,” a former employee said at the time of last year’s layoffs.
BP hopes to invest in new sources of renewable energy.
For example, the company announced last year that it will partner with Microsoft to develop new technology innovations and digital solutions to help reduce energy use and carbon emissions.
But former employees warned that the company cannot remain profitable if it rushes into new investments it doesn’t fully understand.
“There is so much internal change that it will be a big job to pick up the organization and get things going,” a senior employee in the exploration division said.