The energy transition is set to drive asset divestments totalling more than $100 billion in the coming years as industry heavyweights adjust their portfolios to boost cash flow in line with new decarbonisation goals, according to Rystad Energy.

The Oslo-based research company has calculated that the so-called Majors+ group of oil companies — ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Total, Eni, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Equinor— will need to sell or swap assets worth a total of about $111 billion and with spending commitments of $20 billion next year to rationalise their portfolios due to a lower oil price and demand outlook in the longer term amid a global shift away from fossil fuels.

Such a divestment — comprising assets with combined resources of 68 billion barrels of oil equivalent — would see these companies taking the exit route in 203 countries to reduce their total country positions to only 90, while offloading fields with high carbon-intensity.

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Rystad said the sell-offs are necessary for companies to boost their cash flow, cost-efficiency and competitiveness in the face of a changing energy market environment.

Net-zero goals

The likes of BP and Equinor have pledged to shift increasingly to renewables and low-carbon oil and gas production towards a goal of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 in line with global climate targets outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Rystad has applied criteria to companies’ assets based on expected cash flow over the next five years, the potential growth in their current portfolios and their presence in key E&P growth countries towards 2030 to determine where divestments should take place.

“Companies will look to expand in the prioritised countries through exploration, acquisitions or asset swaps with other Major+ players,” senior vice president Tore Guldbrandsoy said.

“However, to stay in a country that our criteria exclude, a company may instead seek to grow its local business more aggressively to make sure the portfolio will have a positive and more significant impact on overall performance.”

Country exits

Rystad has found, for example, that after applying this screening criteria, BP would have to cut its country positions from 29 to 14, Chevron from 25 to six, Eni from 44 to 15, ExxonMobil from 45 to 10 and Equinor from 27 to seven.

Equinor faces growing pressure to divest its loss-making shale assets in the US, where it has now closed its regional office in Austin, Texas.

Some of the Majors+ are already putting assets up for sale, with ExxonMobil looking to exit the UK, Romania and Indonesia, though Rystad stated “so far, the steps may be too small”.

Possible transactions on the cards could be BP, Eni and ConocoPhillips acquiring the Indonesia portfolios of ExxonMobil, Total and Shell; BP swapping its position in Algeria for Eni’s holdings in Australia; and Shell swapping its assets in Norway for Total’s portfolio in Oman.