Wednesday 16 October 2019

Oil giant BP names Kerryman Bernard Looney as new CEO

New BP boss Bernard Looney will take over in February (BP / PA)
New BP boss Bernard Looney will take over in February (BP / PA)
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

OIL giant BP has named Kerryman Bernard Looney as chief executive to succeed Bob Dudley when he retires next year.

Looney will be the 16th head of the oil company in its 110 year history.

Bernard Looney (49) grew up on a small farm in Ashgrove, near Kenmare in Co Kerry. The UCD engineering graduate has been based in London.

He took charge of BP’s oil and gas production, or upstream operations, in 2016 as the sector grappled with the aftermath of the 2014 collapse in oil prices.

He is credited with an energetic management style and spearheaded BP’s drive to improve performance through cost cutting and digitalisation.

He has led BP through one of its periods of fastest growth in oil and gas production, with output rising up by around 20pc since 2016 with the launch of more than 20 new major projects around the world and the acquisition of BHP’s portfolio of US shale assets this year for $10.5 billion in BP’s biggest deal in three decades.

As CEO, he will be charged with continuing to adapt BP to the transition to lower carbon energy as pressure from investors to meet climate change targets grow.

“Bernard is a terrific choice to lead the company next,” Dudley, who turned 64 last month, said in a statement.

Dudley will step down as CEO after the company’s full-year results on February 4 2020 and will retire on March 31, BP said.

Read More: How this Kerry farmer's son is a rising star at oil giant BP

Looney told The Sunday Independent last year about his experiences of working with the company in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 - the largest in US history - where a blowout and fire killed 11 people and injured 17, harming or killing tens of thousands of birds and various marine life along the coastline of five states. It has cost the firm $66bn (equivalent to about 11 times last year's profits) in fines, legal bills, clean-up and compensation costs - paid largely through selling off assets ­- after a judge found the blame for the disaster was 67pc attributable to BP.

Looney, who was at the time head of BP's North Sea operations at the time, remembers: “I was in Houston for 60 days straight helping out.

“To see what happened was very, very difficult. We will never forget what happened. We always have to have an eye on the past, because that has shaped the company. It was, without doubt, the most challenging time of my career.

“What you find during times like that is the depth and resources of people in the company and their extraordinary commitment. To work with Bob back then to try to rebuild the company was both enormously challenging and rewarding.

“This is a company that has given me everything I have in my life. I've been with them for 28 years, and it's a company I love. It's given me experiences and a life and career that I would not have otherwise had.”

He spoke fondly about growing up on his family's dairy farm, which he recalls was “only about eight acres out of the 90 we had were actually arable. We had 14 cows and it was pretty much subsistence farming.”

Looney also said that being Irish has helped him in some aspects of his career.

“Diplomacy does to some extent come with being Irish. You have to know your place. There's no bad baggage, which there can be if you come from other countries.

“Many of us perhaps have a certain humility, and if you want to develop a relationship, a little bit of humility can go a long way. But after that it's about the individual,” he said.

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