We believe that long-term price assumptions made by fossil-fuel-extractive companies in their reports and accounts need to be carefully scrutinised to ensure that they give consideration to a decarbonising world.
We therefore welcome the news that oil and gas company Chevron has announced its decision to lower the long-term commodity price assumptions used in its accounts, in a press release about its capital and exploratory budget for 2020. It reported that this reduction resulted in a $10-11bn impairment on gas and other assets. Chevron further stated that it would be applying increased capital discipline going forward.
This announcement comes just a few days after the Spanish oil and gas company Repsol set out its decision to cut the long-term commodity price assumptions used in its accounts, resulting in a EUR4.8bn impairment.
These announcements are significant. They reflect oil and gas companies’ growing realisation that they face structural reductions in long-term oil and gas prices, rather than merely cyclical lows. Repsol explicitly linked its accounting adjustment to the need to align with the Paris goals and the new economic reality of decarbonisation.
We have been calling on oil and gas companies to review these long-term commodity price assumptions used in financial statements for the past two years, and believe that these announcements are just the beginning of what is to come. Based on our analysis, oil and gas companies have generally used between $70-85 per barrel for impairment testing. And yet Carbon Tracker, a climate research firm, and Aurora, a market intelligence firm, have both suggested Paris-aligned commodity prices closer to $30-40 per barrel.
It is vitally important that audit committees and audit firms act sooner rather than later to ensure prudent assumptions are used, despite the risk of impairments. Overstatement may encourage excessive investment into new fossil fuels. This will not only increase the risk of assets being stranded in the future but work against efforts to combat climate change.