Assessing the Preparedness of Major Oil and Gas Companies for a Low-Carbon Energy Transition

Francis J Shaw, Charles W. Donovan

Abstract


Given the volume of capital already embedded in the energy sector, the transition of the oil and gas majors towards low-carbon energy will be crucial in meeting global climate objectives. Various commercial indices currently attempt to track climate change risks embedded in these firms. The methodologies employed are largely based on the carbon footprint of a company’s assets, operations and supply chains. These approaches rely on objective information about a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, thereby avoiding inherently subjective evaluations of corporate governance, strategic planning, and risk management policies. The indices generally do not consider the steps being taken by companies to engage in new lines of business and re-shape business models in response to changes in the global energy system. In short, they act as a poor proxy for the investment risks facing oil and gas sector investors. In this paper, we introduce a methodology for identifying strategic differentiation amongst major international oil and gas companies with regards to a low-carbon energy transition. Our technique scores companies based on the degree of portfolio exposure, R&D, diversification, and observable business development in low-carbon activities. We track stated targets, board-level commitment, and monitoring by senior management. Our multi-dimensional analysis produces a within-sector, relative scoring of the degree of preparedness for the energy transition by the largest publicly-traded oil and gas companies. Our approach offers a path towards meaningful interpretation of qualitative information that is becoming available as a result of recommendations by the Financial Stability Board’s Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and national regulatory initiatives. The framework has potential application in other sectors by simplifying the assessment of potential strategic responses in energy-intensive industries. We conclude that existing information disclosures made by the oil and gas majors facilitate a robust evaluation of strategic positioning ahead of a potential shift to a lowcarbon economy.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Charles W. Donovan

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.