IAS 36 goodwill impairment review, VIU basis, oil price and other assumptions, oil company

BP p.l.c. – Annual report – 31 December 2019

Industry: oil and gas

1. Significant accounting policies, judgements, estimates and assumptions (extract)
Impairment of property, plant and equipment, intangible assets, and goodwill
The group assesses assets or groups of assets, called cash-generating units (CGUs), for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of an asset or CGU may not be recoverable; for example, changes in the group’s business plans, changes in the group’s assumptions about commodity prices, low plant utilization, evidence of physical damage or, for oil and gas assets, significant downward revisions of estimated reserves or increases in estimated future development expenditure or decommissioning costs. If any such indication of impairment exists, the group makes an estimate of the asset’s or CGU’s recoverable amount. Individual assets are grouped into CGUs for impairment assessment purposes at the lowest level at which there are identifiable cash flows that are largely independent of the cash flows of other groups of assets. A CGU’s recoverable amount is the higher of its fair value less costs of disposal and its value in use. If it is probable that the value of the CGU will be primarily recovered through a disposal transaction, the expected disposal proceeds are considered in determining the recoverable amount. Where the carrying amount of a CGU exceeds its recoverable amount, the CGU is considered impaired and is written down to its recoverable amount.

The business segment plans, which are approved on an annual basis by senior management, are the primary source of information for the determination of value in use. They contain forecasts for oil and natural gas production, refinery throughputs, sales volumes for various types of refined products (e.g. gasoline and lubricants), revenues, costs and capital expenditure. As an initial step in the preparation of these plans, various assumptions regarding market conditions, such as oil prices, natural gas prices, refining margins, refined product margins and cost inflation rates are set by senior management. These assumptions take account of existing prices, global supply-demand equilibrium for oil and natural gas, other macroeconomic factors and historical trends and variability. In assessing value in use, the estimated future cash flows are adjusted for the risks specific to the asset group that are not reflected in the discount rate and are discounted to their present value typically using a pre-tax discount rate that reflects current market assessments of the time value of money.

Fair value less costs of disposal is the price that would be received to sell the asset in an orderly transaction between market participants and does not reflect the effects of factors that may be specific to the group and not applicable to entities in general. In limited circumstances where recent market transactions are not available for reference, discounted cash flow techniques are applied. Where discounted cash flow analyses are used to calculate fair value less costs of disposal, estimates are made about the assumptions market participants would use when pricing the asset, CGU or group of CGUs containing goodwill and the test is performed on a post-tax basis.

An assessment is made at each reporting date as to whether there is any indication that previously recognized impairment losses may no longer exist or may have decreased. If such an indication exists, the recoverable amount is estimated. A previously recognized impairment loss is reversed only if there has been a change in the estimates used to determine the asset’s recoverable amount since the last impairment loss was recognized. If that is the case, the carrying amount of the asset is increased to the lower of its recoverable amount and the carrying amount that would have been determined, net of depreciation, had no impairment loss been recognized for the asset in prior years. Impairment reversals are recognized in profit or loss. After a reversal, the depreciation charge is adjusted in future periods to allocate the asset’s revised carrying amount, less any residual value, on a systematic basis over its remaining useful life.

Goodwill is reviewed for impairment annually or more frequently if events or changes in circumstances indicate the recoverable amount of the group of CGUs to which the goodwill relates should be assessed. In assessing whether goodwill has been impaired, the carrying amount of the group of CGUs to which goodwill has been allocated is compared with its recoverable amount. Where the recoverable amount of the group of CGUs is less than the carrying amount (including goodwill), an impairment loss is recognized. An impairment loss recognized for goodwill is not reversed in a subsequent period.

Significant judgements and estimates: recoverability of asset carrying values
Determination as to whether, and by how much, an asset, CGU, or group of CGUs containing goodwill is impaired involves management estimates on highly uncertain matters such as the effects of inflation and deflation on operating expenses, discount rates, production profiles, reserves and resources, and future commodity prices, including the outlook for global or regional market supply-and-demand conditions for crude oil, natural gas and refined products. Judgement is required when determining the appropriate grouping of assets into a CGU or the appropriate grouping of CGUs for impairment testing purposes. For example, individual oil and gas properties may form separate CGUs whilst certain oil and gas properties with shared infrastructure may be grouped together to form a single CGU. Alternative groupings of assets or CGUs may result in a different outcome from impairment testing. See Note 14 for details on how these groupings have been determined in relation to the impairment testing of goodwill.

As disclosed above, the recoverable amount of an asset is the higher of its value in use and its fair value less costs of disposal. Fair value less costs of disposal may be determined based on expected sales proceeds or similar recent market transaction data.

Details of impairment charges and reversals recognized in the income statement are provided in Note 4 and details on the carrying amounts of assets are shown in Note 12, Note 14 and Note 15.

The estimates for assumptions made in impairment tests in 2019 relating to discount rates and oil and gas properties are discussed below. Changes in the economic environment or other facts and circumstances may necessitate revisions to these assumptions and could result in a material change to the carrying values of the group’s assets within the next financial year.

Discount rates
For discounted cash flow calculations, future cash flows are adjusted for risks specific to the CGU. Value-in-use calculations are typically discounted using a pre-tax discount rate based upon the cost of funding the group derived from an established model, adjusted to a pre-tax basis and incorporating a market participant capital structure. Fair value less costs of disposal calculations use the post-tax discount rate.

The discount rates applied in impairment tests are reassessed each year. In 2019 the post-tax discount rate was 6% (2018 6%) and the pre-tax discount rate typically ranged from 7% to 13% (2018 9%) depending on the applicable tax rate in the geographic location of the CGU. Where the CGU is located in a country that is judged to be higher risk an additional premium of 1% to 4% was added to the discount rates (2018 2%). The judgement of classifying a country as higher risk and the applicable premium takes into account various economic and geopolitical factors.

Oil and natural gas properties
For oil and natural gas properties, expected future cash flows are estimated using management’s best estimate of future oil and natural gas prices and production and reserves volumes. The estimated future level of production in all impairment tests is based on assumptions about future commodity prices, production and development costs, field decline rates, current fiscal regimes and other factors.

The recoverable amount of oil and gas properties is primarily sensitive to changes in the oil and gas price assumptions. Further sensitivity analysis may be performed if a specific oil and gas property is identified to have low headroom above its carrying amount. In 2019, the group identified oil and gas properties with carrying amounts totalling $25,092 million (2018 $22,000 million) where the headroom, as at the dates of the last impairment test performed on those assets, was less than or equal to 20% of the carrying value, including $1,256 million (2018 $1,345 million) in relation to equity-accounted entities. A change in the discount rate, reserves, resources or the oil and gas price assumptions in the next financial year may result in the recoverable amount of one or more of these assets falling below the current carrying amount.

The recoverability of intangible exploration and appraisal expenditure is covered under Oil and natural gas exploration, appraisal and development expenditure above.

Oil and natural gas prices
The long-term price assumptions used for investment appraisal are recommended by the group chief economist after considering a range of external price, and supply and demand forecasts under various energy transition scenarios. They are reviewed and approved by management. As a result of the current uncertainty over the pace of transition to lower-carbon supply and demand and the social, political and environmental actions that will be taken to meet the goals of the Paris climate change agreement, the forecasts and scenarios considered include those where those goals are met as well as those where they are not met. The assumptions below represent management’s best estimate of future prices; they do not reflect a specific scenario and sit within the range of the external forecasts considered.

The long-term price assumptions used to determine recoverable amount based on value-in-use impairments tests are derived from the central case investment appraisal assumptions (see page 19) of $70 per barrel for Brent and $4 per mmBtu for Henry Hub gas, both in 2015 prices (2018 $75 per barrel and $4 per mmBtu respectively, in 2015 prices). These long-term prices are applied from 2025 and 2032 respectively (2018 both from 2024) and continue to be inflated for the remaining life of the asset.

The price assumptions used over the periods to 2025 and 2032 have been set such that there is a linear progression from our best estimate of 2020 prices, which were set by reference to 2019 average prices, to the long-term assumptions.

The majority of BP’s reserves and resources that support the carrying value of the group’s oil and gas properties are expected to be produced over the next 10 years. Average prices (in real 2015 terms) used to estimate cash flows over this period are $67 per barrel for Brent and $3.1 per mmBtu for Henry Hub gas.

Oil prices fell 10% in 2019 from 2018 due to trade tensions, a macroeconomic downturn, and a slight slowdown in oil demand. OPEC+ production restraint, unplanned outages, and sanctions on Venezuela and Iran kept prices from falling further. BP’s long-term assumption for oil prices is higher than the 2019 price average, based on the judgement that current price levels would not encourage sufficient investment to meet global oil demand sustainably in the longer term, especially given the financial requirements of key low-cost oil producing economies.

US gas prices dropped by around 15% in 2019 compared to 2018. After an initial spike in January, they remained relatively low for much of the year due to a combination of strong associated gas production growth, and storage levels coming back to normal. US gas demand growth was much lower than the exceptional increase in 2018, while LNG exports continued to expand. BP’s long-term price assumption for US gas is higher than recent market prices due to forecast rising domestic demand, rapidly increasing pipeline and LNG exports, and lowest cost resources being absorbed leading to production of more expensive gas, as well as requiring increased investment in infrastructure.

Management tested the impact of a reduction in prices of 15% against the best estimate for Brent oil and Henry Hub gas in all future years. These price reductions in isolation could indicatively lead to a reduction in the carrying amount of BP’s oil and gas properties in the range of $2-3 billion, which is approximately 1-2% of the net book value of property, plant and equipment as at 31 December 2019.

Management also tested the impact of a scenario where Brent oil and Henry Hub gas prices start 15% lower than the best estimate and gradually reduce to 25% lower than the best estimate by 2040. Although this is not considered to be a reasonably possible change in the long-term assumptions within the next financial year, it reflects the inherent uncertainty in forecasting long-term prices. These price reductions in isolation could indicatively lead to a reduction in the carrying amount of BP’s oil and gas properties in the range of $4-5 billion which is approximately 3-4% of the net book value of property, plant and equipment as at 31 December 2019. Additionally, such a price reduction does not indicate a reduction in the carrying amount of the Upstream goodwill balance.

These sensitivity analyses do not, however, represent management’s best estimate of any impairments that might be recognized as they do not fully incorporate consequential changes that may arise, such as reductions in costs and changes to business plans, phasing of development, levels of reserves and resources, and production volumes. As the extent of a price reduction increases, the more likely it is that costs would decrease across the industry. The above sensitivity analyses therefore do not reflect a linear relationship between price and value that can be extrapolated. Past experience of performing impairment tests suggests that any impairment arising from such price reductions is likely to be lower once all these factors are taken into consideration. The interdependency of these inputs and risk factors plus the diverse characteristics of our oil and gas properties limits the practicability of estimating the probability or extent to which the overall recoverable amount is impacted by changes to the price assumptions.

The decline in oil and natural gas prices in the first quarter of 2020 is not expected to materially impact the recoverable amount of the group’s oil and natural gas properties.

Oil and natural gas reserves
In addition to oil and natural gas prices, significant technical and commercial assessments are required to determine the group’s estimated oil and natural gas reserves. Reserves estimates are regularly reviewed and updated. Factors such as the availability of geological and engineering data, reservoir performance data, acquisition and divestment activity and drilling of new wells all impact on the determination of the group’s estimates of its oil and natural gas reserves. BP bases its proved reserves estimates on the requirement of reasonable certainty with rigorous technical and commercial assessments based on conventional industry practice and regulatory requirements.

Reserves assumptions for value-in-use tests reflect the reserves and resources that management currently intend to develop. The recoverable amount of oil and gas properties is determined using a combination of inputs including reserves, resources and production volumes. Risk factors may be applied to reserves and resources which do not meet the criteria to be treated as proved.

Irrespective of whether there is any indication of impairment, BP is required to test annually for impairment of goodwill acquired in business combinations. The group carries goodwill of approximately $11.9 billion on its balance sheet (2018 $12.2 billion), principally relating to the Atlantic Richfield, Burmah Castrol, Devon Energy and Reliance transactions. Sensitivities and additional information relating to impairment testing of goodwill in the Upstream segment are provided in Note 14.

14. Goodwill and impairment review of goodwillbp1

Goodwill acquired through business combinations has been allocated to groups of cash-generating units that are expected to benefit from the synergies of the acquisition. For Upstream, goodwill is allocated to all oil and gas assets in aggregate at the segment level. For Downstream, goodwill has been allocated to Lubricants and Other.

For information on significant estimates and judgements made in relation to impairments see Impairment of property, plant and equipment, intangible assets and goodwill in Note 1.bp2

The table above shows the carrying amount of goodwill for the segment and the excess of the recoverable amount, based on a pre-tax value-in-use calculation, over the carrying amount (headroom) at the date of the test. The increase in headroom principally arises from acquisitions (including the acquisition from BHP), new activity and discount rate changes, net of highly probable and completed divestments and price assumption changes.

Goodwill impairments of $386 million, related to goodwill allocated to expected divestments, were recognized during 2019 (2018 nil).

The value in use is based on the cash flows expected to be generated by the projected oil or natural gas production profiles up to the expected dates of cessation of production of each producing field, based on current estimates of reserves and resources, appropriately risked. Midstream and supply and trading activities and equity-accounted entities are generally not included in the impairment review of goodwill, because they are not part of the grouping of cash-generating units to which the goodwill relates and which is used to monitor the goodwill for internal management purposes. Where such activities form part of a wider Upstream cash-generating unit, they are reflected in the test. As the production profile and related cash flows can be estimated from BP’s past experience, management believes that the cash flows generated over the estimated life of field is the appropriate basis upon which to assess goodwill and individual assets for impairment. The estimated date of cessation of production depends on the interaction of a number of variables, such as the recoverable quantities of hydrocarbons, the production profile of the hydrocarbons, the cost of the development of the infrastructure necessary to recover the hydrocarbons, production costs, the contractual duration of the production concession and the selling price of the hydrocarbons produced. As each producing field has specific reservoir characteristics and economic circumstances, the cash flows of the fields are computed using appropriate individual economic models and key assumptions agreed by BP management. Capital expenditure, operating costs and expected hydrocarbon production profiles are derived from the business segment plan adjusted for assumptions reflecting the price environment at the time that the test was performed. Estimated production volumes and cash flows up to the date of cessation of production on a field-by-field basis are consistent with this. The production profiles used are consistent with the reserve and resource volumes approved as part of BP’s centrally controlled process for the estimation of proved and probable reserves and total resources.

The most recent review for impairment was carried out in the fourth quarter. The key assumptions used in the value-in-use calculation are oil and natural gas prices, production volumes and the discount rate. Oil and gas price assumptions and discount rate assumptions used were as disclosed in Note 1. The value-in-use calculation has been prepared solely for the purposes of determining whether the goodwill balance was impaired. Estimated future cash flows were prepared on the basis of certain assumptions prevailing at the time of the test. The actual outcomes may differ from the assumptions made. For example, reserves and resources estimates and production forecasts are subject to revision as further technical information becomes available and economic conditions change. Due to economic developments, regulatory change and emissions reduction activity arising from climate concern and other factors, future commodity prices and other assumptions may differ from the forecasts used in the calculations.

Sensitivities to different variables have been estimated using certain simplifying assumptions. For example, lower oil and gas price sensitivities do not fully reflect the specific impacts for each contractual arrangement and will not capture all favourable impacts that may arise from cost deflation. A detailed calculation at any given price or production profile may, therefore, produce a different result.

It is estimated that no reasonable sustained fall in the oil or gas price assumption over the next 20 years would individually cause the recoverable amount to be equal to the carrying amount of goodwill and related net non-current assets of the segment.

Estimated production volumes are based on detailed data for each field and take into account development plans agreed by management as part of the long-term planning process. The average production for the purposes of goodwill impairment testing over the next 15 years is 829 mmboe per year (2018 829 mmboe per year). It is estimated that no reasonably possible change in production volumes would cause the recoverable amount to be equal to the carrying amount of goodwill and related net non-current assets of the segment.

It is estimated that no reasonably possible change in the pre-tax discount rate would cause the recoverable amount to be equal to the carrying amount of goodwill and related net non-current assets of the segment. The weighted average discount rate used in the test is 12%.


Cash flows for each cash-generating unit are derived from the business segment plans, which cover a period of up to five years. To determine the value in use for each of the cash-generating units, cash flows for a period of 10 years are discounted and aggregated with a terminal value.

As permitted by IAS 36, the detailed calculations of Lubricants’ recoverable amount performed in the most recent detailed calculation in 2018 was used as the basis for the tests in 2019 as the criteria of IAS 36 were considered satisfied: the headroom was substantial in 2018; there have been no significant changes in the assets and liabilities; and the likelihood that the recoverable amount would be less than the carrying amount is remote.

The key assumptions to which the calculation of value in use for the Lubricants unit is most sensitive are operating unit margins, sales volumes, and discount rate. Operating margin and sales volumes assumptions used in the detailed impairment review of goodwill calculation are consistent with the assumptions used in the Lubricants unit’s business plan and values assigned to these key assumptions reflect past experience. No reasonably possible change in any of these key assumptions would cause the unit’s carrying amount to exceed its recoverable amount. Cash flows beyond the plan period are extrapolated using a nominal 2.8% growth rate.