BHP dismisses carbon policy and divestment risks

BHP Billiton has dismissed concerns about the “carbon bubble” of unburnable fossil fuels in its 2014 Sustainability Report, saying it is not at material risk.
BHP dismisses carbon policy and divestment risks BHP dismisses carbon policy and divestment risks BHP dismisses carbon policy and divestment risks BHP dismisses carbon policy and divestment risks BHP dismisses carbon policy and divestment risks


Richard Collins

“Using a range of carbon prices and commodity demand and pricing assumptions across a variety of internally consistent scenarios, we have determined that BHP Billiton’s overall asset valuation is not at material risk, the pay-back periods for most present and future investments in fossil fuels production are relatively short and the portfolio remains robust,” said the report.

Nevertheless, it acknowledges the potential risks of human induced climate change and embraces a range of mitigation, adaptation and research initiatives.

“In light of this, our investment decisions are informed by a comprehensive understanding of a range of possible climate change outcomes and the associated risks and opportunities to delivering shareholder value,” it said.

BHP inputs the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change into its scenarios to understand the potential impacts on the business. But it is coy when it comes to policy responses, supporting a “price on carbon that addresses competitiveness concerns” – code for waiting for global action – along with support for energy efficiency, low-carbon R&D and measures to respond to the physical impacts.

CEO Andrew Mackenzie noted: “In FY2013, we set a target to maintain our FY2017 [greenhouse gas] emissions below our FY2006 baseline levels while continuing to grow our business. We remain in line to meet our target and will continue to focus on overcoming barriers to GHG emissions reduction.”

In the last year it cut greenhouse emissions by 1.7 million tonnes (Mt) CO2-e to 45 Mt. The primary driver was improved supply of hydropower at its Mozambique aluminium operations, but almost half came through dedicated projects such as optimised compression equipment in a Pakistan refinery, replacing process chiller units with heat exchangers in a Canadian potash processing plant and a new off-gas system in the stack of a Colombia electric furnace.

Total energy consumption increased by 6% to 343 petajoules, mostly related to new projects. However, the report provides an unexpected boost for the potential system benefits of the now defunct Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) scheme.

“At our Worsley alumina operation in Australia, a reduction in process variability and downtime has increased the yield at the refinery, from an expected benefit of an additional 500 tonnes to an actual benefit of 3,000 tonnes, and resulted in an improvement in energy efficiency,” it said.

Other measures outlined in a conventional report long on words and with data focused on narrow eco-efficiencies include:

  • Land and Biodiversity Management Plans were in place at all operations;
  • All sites that identified water-related material risks implemented at least one project to improve the management of associated water resources;
  • US$242 million voluntary investment in community programs, US$30 million committed conservation projects (in addition to the environmental management activities at its operations) and 55% of procurement spend was with local suppliers.

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