Over the next five years, the world’s oil majors are expected to invest up to $17.5 billion into solar and wind energy projects, a Rystad Energy analysis projected.
More than half of the total investments could come from the Norwegian state-controlled energy giant Equinor. Analysis from Rystad shows that 57% of total projected investments, or $10 billion, is to be invested by Equinor, the only investor whose majority of greenfield capital expenditures (capex) will go towards renewable energy. Among oil majors, Equinor will lead the way in renewable investments, spending $6.5 billion over the next three years alone to build its capital-intensive offshore wind portfolio.
Because much of the company’s renewable portfolio is already committed, analysts do not believe the prediction will be heavily influenced by fluctuating oil price or capex cuts.
However, if Equinor is disincluded from the outlook, renewable investments from major oil and gas companies declines over the next three years.
After Equinor, the runner-up is Portuguese natural gas distributor Galp, directing just under a quarter of its greenfield expenditure to green initiatives.
The $17.5 billion figure compares to $166 billion expected to be spent on greenfield oil and gas projects, the Rystad team said.
With the notable exceptions of Equinor and Galp, the investments in renewables by the other oil giants will not even match the typical capex requirements of a single oil and gas field in their respective portfolios.
The decline in renewable investments from other major oil and gas companies does not factor in any of the recent capex cuts announced by the majors. For example, Chevron, Mexico’s state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Brazil’s Petróleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras), and other oil majors south of the border all announced capex cuts amid coronavirus.
“Recent suggestions of ”resilient green strategies’ or ”business as usual’ simply do not carry much weight, with the exception of Equinor,” said Gero Farruggio, Rystad’s Product Manager for Renewables. “Not until later in the decade do we see an increase in renewable spending from other companies.
“The pandemic is creating a number of distressed sellers and reducing acquisition costs for assets and companies, thereby creating opportunities for Big Oil to accelerate its energy transition through acquisitions. And with E&P companies announcing deep spending cuts, we may yet see a ramp up in renewable investments as recent headlines suggest, facilitated by new mergers and acquisitions,” Farruggio said.
Galp and Shell seem the most exposed to potential renewable spending cuts, however, they are not expected to significantly reduce renewable investments in the short term — not until at least 2024 for Galp and potentially even later for Shell. Analysts expect that by this time, oil prices will have recovered and lead to a more stable field for investments.
Nonetheless, the pandemic could lead oil majors to pump more capital into renewables, acquire more assets, and develop skills and nurture the capacity to transition beyond petroleum.
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