OPINION: It looks like business as usual at oil supermajor BP with the decision to appoint Bernard Looney as the new chief executive.
The 49-year-old is Irish by extraction and is often seen without a tie, but that's one of the few things that distinguishes him from the man he will replace next spring, Bob Dudley.
Looney is straight out of BP’s central casting department — a company lifer who ended up as head of exploration and production.
This is a well-known trajectory that was seen with past bosses such as (Lord) John Browne and Tony Hayward.
In fact, Dudley himself was slightly different as he was an American who arrived through the merger of BP with Amoco in 1998.
But the Mississippi-raised Dudley — never seen without a tie — was a perfect choice in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the US Gulf of Mexico.
Looney’s challenges contain a wider existential threat to BP, and its rivals — how to deal with the decarbonisation needed to tackle climate change.
BP has not chosen an outsider as a new boss who might have undertaken a root-and-branch review of how to turn it from crude to energy producer.
Looney is an oilman through and through — although his track record suggests he is a highly successful one.
Certainly the sub-committee of the board set up by BP’s relatively new chairman Helge Lund to find a successor did look at outside candidates. In the end BP played safe and went for Looney who joined the company straight after graduating from University College, Dublin.
Looney pushed his way up the ranks with spells in the North Sea, Vietnam and the Gulf of Mexico. He was spotted early by Browne as a potential star of the future.
Looney is feted internally as a great communicator with a no-nonsense manner. He has championed diversity and mental health issues inside the workplace, but this is no softy. He has very high standards for himself and everyone around him.
He won the top job after bringing more than 20 new projects on stream on time and on budget as head of production. So, BP from February 5 will be in the hands of a very motivated and skilled company man, but one steeped in the carbon tradition.
His supporters insist he is as well aware as anyone that BP cannot just keep on doing the same things it has in the past. But you have to wonder whether the UK supermajor played safe at a time when it was an opportunity to be bold.
After all, Lund himself is an oilman — unlike his predecessor Carl-Henrik Svanberg who has been boss of Swedish electrical giant Ericsson.
Meanwhile, there must be high praise for Dudley. With smart moves, endless patience and steely nerves, the quiet American steered BP off the rocks despite over $65 billion worth of fines and liabilities related to the Macondo disaster.
He had been given a thorough testing for the most senior job when he was literally chased out of Russia by the Kremlin’s henchmen in the dark days of TNK-BP.
It may be that Looney has not been tested to that level of destruction, but he will be in the years ahead as the green anti-carbon juggernaut gathers speed.
Adapt or die, warned one Chatham House analyst about the future facing oil majors. So it cannot be business as usual for Looney or BP.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)