Skip to main content

Comparing the Net Zero Targets of Oil Majors

By January 5, 2023March 22nd, 2024No Comments
Meet the Author – Dr. Lee Eccleshare – Head of Research

In his role as Head of Research, Lee leverages AMPLYFI’s technologies to better inform clients before they make strategically important decisions. In the past, Lee has worked in the petrochemical sector providing data-driven strategic insight to the world’s leading oil majors. Lee is also a published author within scientific journals, and holds a PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry.

What are net zero targets?

Carbon-containing greenhouse gases (commonly carbon dioxide and methane) are a key driver of global climate change. The burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal and petrochemicals, is a major source of these greenhouse gases. Oil majors like Shell, BP and ExxonMobil are under pressure to reduce their emissions due to their role in the production of these fossil fuels, and have all set themselves the target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. This means that after taking into account offsetting schemes (such as planting trees or direct air carbon capture) they will have a net impact of zero carbon emissions on the planet.

AMPLYFI’s DeepInsight platform has been used to directly compare the net zero ambitions of Shell, BP and ExxonMobil.

How has the discussion evolved?

The timeline below shows that discussion strongly linking oil majors to net zero targets increased modestly between 2016 and 2018, before event-led media spikes materialised in 2019. The first event to cause a splash was in January 2019 when ExxonMobil announced a biofuels partnership. In March 2019, Shell created a 100% renewable utility company in the UK and then in April gave drivers in the Netherlands the option to offset their driving emissions, making them carbon neutral.

The biggest event-spikes for each organisation in this graph are due to the announcements of their net zero by 2050 targets. BP’s announcement came first in February 2020 before Shell followed soon after, in April the same year. It took ExxonMobil considerably longer to match this pledge, finally committing almost two years after BP’s announcement.

What is the tone of discussion?

Our sentiment analysis shows how these oil majors are spoken about in media discussions. The sentiment chart measures the sentiment of documents that strongly link the oil majors to net zero targets, and converts this into a relative score to allow direct comparison. In all cases, the overall sentiment is above zero showing that on balance, the last seven years have seen an overall positive sentiment. BP marginally leads Shell with the highest relative sentiment score of +37, compared to +33. There is then a significant gap to ExxonMobil, which has a relative score of +4.

The lower performance of ExxonMobil can be accounted for in two ways:

  1. It spent a longer time coming under pressure for not having a net zero target.
  2. After announcing their target, commentators thought it fell short of other organisations after not recognising so-called scope 3 emissions (emissions caused in the downstream use of their products)

What reduction methods are being discussed?

There are a number of ways in which oil majors can move themselves towards net zero emissions. The following graph tracks the strength of the connection between oil majors and different methods of emission reduction.

The most prevalent method for Shell and BP is the use of wind power to drive renewable electricity production. Conversely, the most prevalent method linked to ExxonMobil is the development of Biofuels, which is present in 22% of ExxonMobil discussion. 

BP has the highest link to Carbon Capture, Utilisation & Storage (CCUS) technology whilst Shell is most heavily linked to green hydrogen technologies.

What about the future?

According to Shell, they will soon be spending up to $2 billion per year in low-carbon investment whilst BP claim they will be investing $4 billion per year by 2025. The size of these numbers reflects the scale of ambition and commitment needed to complete the energy transition. Even if this monumental effort is successful, it is unclear if we will be able to limit global warming to the 1.5 °C target set out in the Paris agreement.

Subscribe Here for News and Insights

* indicates required