Oct 4, 2019 - Energy & Environment

BP names Bernard Looney as its next CEO

BP said Friday that Bernard Looney, head of the company's oil-and-gas exploration and production unit, will take over as CEO in early February.

Why it matters: It adds clarity to the oil giant's succession plans after word emerged recently that current CEO Bob Dudley, 64, is readying to step down after a decade in the role.

Where it stands: The 49-year-old Looney joined BP as an engineer in 1991 and moved through several roles, becoming head of the upstream division in 2016.

  • Per Reuters, "The Irishman's energetic management style was quickly felt as he spearheaded BP's drive to improve performance through cost cutting and digitalization."
  • He's been the upstream chief at an active time that included the $10.5 billion acquisition of BHP's U.S. shale assets and BP's recently announced sale of its Alaska operations.

The big picture: As I noted in this piece about Dudley's career, it's part of a wider changing of the guard at some of the world's largest oil companies.

  • ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods took over for Rex Tillerson in 2017 after Tillerson left for what would be a short tenure as secretary of state.
  • Mike Wirth became CEO of Chevron in 2018, replacing John Watson.

One big question: How Looney will address growing pressure on oil-and-gas giants to take more aggressive steps on climate change.

  • Under Dudley, BP has set emissions-cutting targets for its operations and boosted investments in renewables, electric vehicle charging and other climate-friendly tech.
  • However, alternative energy remains a small share of its business. And BP has rejected activists' calls to set targets for emissions-cutting from use of its fuels in the economy (known as "scope 3" emissions).

What they're saying: BP Chairman Helge Lund, in a statement praising Dudley's tenure, said of Looney: "As the company charts its course through the energy transition this is a logical time for a change."

Go deeper: BP agrees to activists' calls for wider climate disclosure

Go deeper