Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Strategic Implementation and Adoption of Biofuels by Oil Majors

In this discussion, we will be focusing on some issues from the environmental and industry analysis aspect of strategy development. Over the last 5 to 10 years, major oil companies have massively invested in the Bio-fuel space. According to a recent Pike Pulse report published by Pike Research, Shell and BP are the two major oil companies that are well positioned to benefit from the proliferation of bio-fuels.[1]

A brief synopsis of these two companies would reveal that at some point in the past, they strategically took into consideration the political climate of the US which is by far their biggest market. They also did a competitive analysis and positioning of their companies within the industry. This is indicative from the statement made by Phil New, head of BP's biofuels unit at a conference earlier this year. He noted that the oil industry and the biofuels sector should be working together to advance the industry, which he said provided the only economically viable alternative fuel for cars. [2]

"That is the bridging point that we should all remember and sometimes not allow ourselves to be distracted by the tactical debates that go on between the two camps. Fundamentally, we are on the same side," [2]
Part of BP's industry analysis component of its long term strategy was creating a 50-50 venture with cellulosic ethanol producer Verenium by investing over $90 million. Further more, BP will start building a 36 million gallon biofule plant in florida this year. [3]. This highlights the major tactical steps that BP has taken down the years in consonance with their target to be leaders in energy production which has included boosting sugar cane production in Brazil for biofuel production.

planting energy grasses Higlands Florida
Fig: Planting energy grasses Highlands Florida [3]

Comparatively, the chart below shows the placements of the various players in the oil and energy industry. Apparently, there is a symbiotic variation between the components of Environmental and Industry analysis and the resulting strategy.

Image Credit: Pike Research [1]

The chart shows the laggards in the adoption and one can draw some parallels with the position of the companies. The concept of producing ethanol from corn-based products was once derided by Exxon Mobil CEO as "moonshine".

My question from this write-up is how can leaders be sure of forecast  paths as it entails the components of Environmental and Industry analysis which do not always fall within their control.

[1] Osborne, Charlie. "Shell, BP score highest in biofuels assessment | SmartPlanet." SmartPlanet - Innovative Ideas That Impact Your World. SmartPlanet, 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <>

[2] Daily, Matt. " Oil, biofuel companies evolve into uneasy frenemies| Reuters." Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | Reuters, 4 Apr. 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <>.


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