BP has been accused of prioritising fossil fuels over green energy as it plans to spend as much as double the amount on oil and gas projects than on renewable investments next year.
The FTSE 100 company has earmarked up to $7.5bn (£6.2bn) for oil and gas projects, compared with a range of $3bn to $5bn for green energy.
BP expects to increase spending on “resilient hydrocarbons” – oil and gas, refining and bioenergy projects – by up to $1bn in 2023.
In 2021 the company’s capital expenditure was $12.8bn and it expected to spend $14bn-15bn this year, and then $14bn-16bn a year between 2023 and 2025.
Within this, investment into “resilient hydrocarbons” will increase from $9bn in 2022 to “$9bn to $10bn a year” from 2023 to 2025, including $7.5bn a year on oil and gas projects.
BP intends to invest $3bn to $5bn a year on “low-carbon” energy projects between 2023 and 2025, rising to $4bn to $6bn a year in the second half of the decade.
BP also plans to spend a further $2bn to $3bn in its convenience and mobility division, which includes its fuel forecourts and electric vehicle charging businesses.
However, the firm has been criticised for not moving faster into renewables.
“Where you spend your money says a lot about your priorities,” said Mike Childs, the head of policy at Friends of the Earth. “It’s astounding that in the middle of a climate emergency BP is planning to invest billions more dollars on planet-warming fossil fuels than on clean, green renewables.”
BP has racked up bumper profits this year after a rise in wholesale gas prices, fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Energy firms warned that a windfall tax on their profits could harm investments into green energy. However, the BP chief, Bernard Looney, admitted there were no UK investments that he would not make if a windfall tax was implemented.
A tax on North Sea oil and gas operators was later introduced by Rishi Sunak, and dubbed the “Looney levy”.
Looney has attempted to boost BP’s green credentials since taking charge in February 2020, setting a target of making the company net zero by “2050 or sooner”.
The £86bn company has declared that investment in upstream oil and refining must pay back in less than 10 years, while gas projects must pay back within 15 years.
“This focused and disciplined capital frame together with a deep hopper of attractive investment opportunities in oil and gas is expected to maximise returns,” the company said in its annual report.
In a major investigation into “carbon bombs”, the Guardian reported in May that oil and gas majors are planning scores of vast projects that threaten to shatter the 1.5C climate goal.
The chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, toughened the windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas firms last month. However, it includes an investment allowance for new projects.
“The government must stop pandering to the fossil fuel giants with its weak windfall tax,” Childs said. “Ministers should increase the rate and close the loophole that encourages companies to invest in more gas and oil. More gas and oil will lead to more of the extreme heat and devastating forest fires, floods, and storms we’ve seen in 2022.”
BP spent more than £800,000 on social media influence ads in the UK that champion the company’s investments in green energy earlier this year.
The Green party co-leader Adrian Ramsay said: “Despite the greenwash we see from these fossil fuel giants, it’s clear they remain intent on making as much money from oil and gas as they can, and are willing to send us all to hell in a handcart in the process.
“Time and again these corporations have shown us that they are not willing to change their actions in line with what the science demands, so it is vital that governments step up and do what is necessary to give us the best possible chance of protecting the environment for ourselves and future generations.”
BP said it expected spending in non-oil and gas projects – including renewables, hydrogen and bioenergy investments – to grow to more than 40% of its total investment by 2025 and to about 50% by 2030.
In October it bought the US biogas company Archaea Energy for $3.3bn plus $800m of debt. Looney is expected to give an update on BP’s investment plans in February. The company plans to spend £18bn in the UK by the end of 2030.