BP plc Group CEO Bob Dudley on Thursday said 2013 will be a “year of execution,” to build financial reserves, followed by a “year of delivery” as it prepares to launch a portfolio of 45 major upstream projects to 2020.

Dudley, speaking to shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in London, said BP will be focused on four operating areas: the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Angola, Azerbaijan and the North Sea.

“We expect around half of our operating cash to come from those four places,” he said. Eight other locations around the world, including Trinidad, the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, also are expected to bring in profits.

The major upstream projects are scheduled to begin ramping up over the next five years, with average unit operating cash margins twice the 2011 average.

“We expect to see operating cash flow reach around $30-31 billion in 2014, meeting the objective of achieving more than 50% growth in 2011 on a like-for-like basis.” The numbers are based on $100/bbl crude oil prices, which have some “uncertainties.”

Since the Macondo well blowout in April 2010, BP has reshaped its portfolio to help pay for government fines, resolve ongoing litigation and for restoration projects. To date, BP has paid more than $32 billion related to the accident and oil spill, Dudley said. The management team since has put in place “some very simple principles, such as don’t try to do everything, and play to our strengths.”

As a result, the company has to date reached its $38 billion target for divestments, one year ahead of schedule.

“If you look at the divestments we have made since April 2010, we have sold around half our upstream installations and pipelines, and one-third of our wells — but only around 10% of our proved reserves,” said the CEO. In terms of production, BP has over the last two years divested nearly 500,000 boe/d, or 16% of its 2010 output.

“Similarly in lower carbon energy,” said Dudley, “while we continue to build gas value chains, offering a lower carbon alternative to coal, and commercial businesses in advanced biofuels, we are divesting nonstrategic assets such as our wind business where others can generate more value.”

He told the audience that BP’s current focus “is our involvement in the civil trial in New Orleans relating to the 2010 accident…We have faith in the U.S. justice system to deliver a fair outcome.”

Several shareholders during the question-and-answer period claimed that BP was being extorted by some Gulf Coast businesses and individuals. Several urged BP to fight before paying additional claims beyond the settlement agreements in place.

“I can only assure you this board is being robust and we have been clear all the way, both during negotiations and publicly, we are willing to settle on reasonable terms, and if we don’t, we continue to fight this in the legal system,” BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said. “Your worries are on everybody’s mind.”

One shareholder in the audience also questioned whether BP should continue to brand itself as “beyond petroleum” and instead rebrand itself as “back to petroleum” after ending wind and solar research (see NGI, April 8).

“What we’ve done is focused our efforts in areas where we have scale of technologies,” said Svanberg. “We also have quite an extensive research portfolio that could take us into new and exciting areas again.”

Dudley urged shareholders “to see BP as a plant that has been carefully pruned…Right now it’s a little smaller, but healthier and stronger and in much better shape for future growth, and the green shoots are already coming through.”

All of the items on the proxy ballot were approved by shareholders. However, close to 9% of investors at the meeting or through proxies voted against reelecting Svanberg as chairman. Almost 6% voted against the remuneration policy.

Standard Life Investments, which holds 1.33% of stock and has abstained or voted against BP compensation policies at seven of the last eight annual meetings, requested that the policy be strengthened and simplified because of concerns “that the executives have the potential to receive significant rewards for achieving unchallenging performance targets.”

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