OPINION: Opinions are divided over the role of oil companies in the energy transition process.
At one end of the spectrum, there is such opprobrium for big oil that opponents would deny dyed-in-the-wool hydrocarbons producers any place in the future energy matrix.
At the other end, forward-looking oil companies believe their experience with applied research and long-term project development offer the most intelligent route to transition.
Among the oil companies, there are broad differences between those wanting to phase out fossil fuels and those focused on reducing carbon intensity or carbon credits.
How will this play out? Maybe consumer pressure will reward a more transformational approach. Or perhaps a new cycle of higher oil prices will reward the likes of ExxonMobil and Petrobras for their more conservative focus on the most profitable oilfields albeit with steps to mitigate carbon intensity.
This week saw the spotlight fall on companies at opposite ends of this spectrum.
A study by equity research firm Redburn, identified BP as the major “most rapidly transitioning its business towards a low carbon future", with its commitment to shrinking upstream production in the near term and allocating 25% of capital expenditure to renewables by 2025.
Investors seem to be getting more used to the idea of oil companies offering an increasing share of their earnings from the more modest source of renewables in return for lower- volatility growth and firm share valuation strategies.
On the other hand, patience may be running out with those that try to ignore change.
Mexico's Pemex has seen its credit rating plunge from investment grade to junk status as the state giant is forced to pursue Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s vision of higher output of crude and refined products.
With more than $100 billion of debt, most in bonds, Pemex might be about to face the music.
Some bondholders have begun warning the company may struggle to issue new debt if it does not heed calls to cut carbon emissions. Chickens do have a habit of coming home to roost.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)