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

BP p.l.c. – Annual report – 31 December 2020

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, plans to dispose rather than retain assets, 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. Carbon taxes and costs of emissions allowances are included in estimates of future cash flows, where applicable, based on the regulatory environment in each jurisdiction in which the group operates. 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, capital expenditure, 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 described 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 2020 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 and country risk premiums. Fair value less costs of disposal discounted cash flow calculations use the post-tax discount rate.

The discount rates applied in impairment tests are reassessed each year and in 2020, the post-tax discount rate was 6% (2019 6%). Where the CGU is located in a country that was judged to be higher risk an additional premium of 1% to 3% was reflected in the post-tax discount rate (2019 1% to 4%). The judgement of classifying a country as higher risk and the applicable premium takes into account various economic and geopolitical factors. The pre-tax discount rate typically ranged from 7% to 15% (2019 7% to 13%) depending on the risk premium and applicable tax rate in the geographic location of the CGU.

Oil and natural gas properties

For Upstream 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.

In 2020, the group identified Upstream oil and gas properties with carrying amounts totalling $45,027 million (2019 $25,092 million) where the headroom, based on the most recent impairment test performed in the year on those assets, was less than or equal to 20% of the carrying value. A change in the discount rate, reserves, resources or the oil and gas price assumptions in the next financial year may result in a recoverable amount of one or more of these assets above or below the current carrying amount and therefore there is a risk of impairment reversals or charges in that period. Management considers that reasonably possible changes in the discount rate or forecast revenue, arising from a change in oil and natural gas prices and/or production could result in a material change in their carrying amounts within the next financial year, see Sensitivity analyses, below.

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 price assumptions used for value in use impairment testing are based on those used for investment appraisal. The investment appraisal price assumptions are recommended by the senior vice president economic & energy insights after considering a range of external prices, 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.

bp sees the prospect of an enduring impact on the global economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the potential for weaker demand for energy for a sustained period. bp’s management also expects that the aftermath of the pandemic will accelerate the pace of transition to a lower carbon economy and energy system as countries seek to ‘build back better’ so that their economies will be more resilient in the future. As a result of all the above, bp revised its price assumptions for value-in-use impairment testing, lowering them compared to those used in 2019 and extending the period covered to 2050. These price assumptions are derived from the central case investment appraisal assumptions (see page 28). A summary of the group’s revised price assumptions, in real 2020 terms, is provided below. The assumptions represent management’s best estimate of future prices, which sit within the range of external forecasts considered as appropriate for the purpose. They are considered by bp to be broadly in line with a range of transition paths consistent with the Paris climate goals. However, they do not correspond to any specific Paris-consistent scenario. An inflation rate of 2% (2019 2%) is applied to determine the price assumptions in nominal terms.

Material impairment charges were recognized in 2020 following the downward revision of the price assumptions. See Note 4 for further information.

The long-term price assumptions used to determine recoverable amount based on value-in-use impairments tests in 2019 were $70 per barrel for Brent and $4 per mmBtu for Henry Hub gas, both in 2015 prices. These long-term prices were applied from 2025 and 2032 respectively inflated for the remaining life of the asset. The price assumptions used in 2019 over the periods to 2025 and 2032 were set such that there was a linear progression from our best estimate of 2020 prices to the long-term assumptions.

The majority of bp’s reserves and resources that support the carrying value of the group’s existing oil and gas properties are expected to be produced over the next 10 years.

Oil prices fell 35% in 2020 from 2019 due to trade tensions, a macroeconomic downturn and a slowdown in oil demand, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 2020 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 20% in 2020 compared to 2019. Henry Hub gas prices were already low in early 2020 due to mild weather. The drop in demand from the second quarter onward as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as significant US LNG shut-ins contributed to prices remaining below $2/mmBtu during the second and third quarters, despite a record consumption in the power sector and the drop in natural gas production. Prices recovered in the fourth quarter due to the seasonal gas demand increase and the strong recovery in US LNG exports. bp’s long-term price assumption for US gas reflects the fact that over the coming decades US gas production increases with an increasing proportion of production being used as feedstock to supply expanding LNG exports, while in the longer-term falling gas consumption and declining demand for global LNG exports leads to increasing competitive pressure on US gas production.

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 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 or probable.

Sensitivity analyses

A change in revenue from Upstream oil and gas properties can arise either due to changes in oil and natural gas prices, changes in oil and natural gas production, or a combination of the two.

Management tested the impact of a change in revenue cash flows in value-in-use impairment testing arising from changes in price assumptions and/or production volumes up to a combined effect on revenue of 10% in all future years.

Revenue reductions of this magnitude in isolation could indicatively lead to a reduction in the carrying amount of bp’s Upstream oil and gas properties in the range of $6-7 billion, which is approximately 5-6% of the net book value of property, plant and equipment as at 31 December 2020.

Revenue increases of this magnitude in isolation could indicatively lead to an increase in the carrying amount of bp’s Upstream 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 2020. This potential increase in the carrying amount would arise due to reversals of previously recognized impairments.

These sensitivity analyses do not, however, represent management’s best estimate of any impairment charges or reversals that might be recognized as they do not fully incorporate consequential changes that may arise, such as changes in costs and business plans and phasing of development. For example, costs across the industry are more likely to decrease as oil and natural gas prices fall. The above sensitivity analyses therefore do not reflect a linear relationship between revenue and value that can be extrapolated. The interdependency of these inputs and risk factors plus the diverse characteristics of our Upstream 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 or production volumes.

Management also tested the impact of a one percentage point change in the discount rate used for value-in-use impairment testing of Upstream oil and gas properties. If the discount rate was one percentage point higher across all tests performed, the impairment charge recognized in 2020 would have been approximately $2.4 billion higher. If the discount rate was one percentage point lower, the impairment charge recognized would have been approximately $2.7 billion lower.


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 $12.5 billion on its balance sheet (2019 $11.9 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.

4. Disposals and impairment (extract 1)

The following amounts were recognized in the income statement in respect of disposals and impairments.

4. Disposals and impairment (extract 2)


Impairment losses and impairment reversals in each segment are described below. For information on significant estimates and judgements made in relation to impairments see Impairment of property, plant and equipment, intangibles and goodwill within Note 1. See also Note 12, and Note 15 for further information on impairments by asset category.


Impairment losses and reversals in all years relate primarily to producing and midstream assets.

The 2020 impairment loss of $12,917 million primarily relates to losses incurred in respect of producing and development assets in the UK North Sea ($2,796 million), the US ($2,744 million), Trinidad ($2,416 million), Mauritania and Senegal ($1,909 million), India ($1,313 million) and Canada ($865 million). Impairment losses were primarily driven by a reduction in bp’s future oil and gas price assumptions and, to a lesser extent, certain technical reserves revisions. The recoverable amount of the impaired CGUs in total is $33,415 million.

The principal CGUs on which significant impairment losses were incurred in 2020 were $1,909 million for Tortue in Mauritania and Senegal; $1,313 million for KGD6 in India; $1,181 million for Schiehallion in the UK North Sea; $1,044 million for Mahogany in Trinidad, $960 million for Cassia in Trinidad; $1,011 million for Hawkville in BPX Energy; $747 million for ETAP in the UK North Sea and $742 million for Sunrise in Canada. The recoverable amount for each of these CGUs was their value in use, which in total was $13,200 million. In addition, impairment losses of $939 million were incurred relating to the disposal of bp’s business in Alaska. The recoverable amount of the Alaska business was its fair value less costs of disposal; see note 2 for further information.

The 2019 impairment losses of $6,752 million related to various assets, with the most significant charges arising in the US. Impairment losses arose primarily as a result of the decision to dispose of certain assets, including $4,703 million in relation to completed and expected disposals in BPX Energy and $1,264 million relating to the expected disposal of our Alaskan business; of these amounts $355 million primarily relates to impairment of associated goodwill.

The 2018 impairment losses of $400 million related to a number of different assets, with the most significant charges arising in Australia and the US. Impairment losses arose primarily as a result of changes to project activity, asset obsolescence and the decision to dispose of certain assets. The 2018 impairment reversals of $580 million related to a number of different assets, with the most significant reversals arising in the North Sea and Angola following a change to decommissioning cost estimates.


Impairment losses totalling $840 million, $65 million, and $12 million were recognized in 2020, 2019 and 2018 respectively. The amount for 2020 principally relates to portfolio changes in the fuels business, including the conversion of Kwinana refinery to an import terminal. None of the impairment charges were individually material.

Other businesses and corporate

Impairment losses totalling $32 million, $30 million, and $254 million were recognized in 2020, 2019 and 2018 respectively. The amount for 2018 is in respect of assets within our US wind business in advance of their disposal in December 2018.

14. Goodwill and impairment review of goodwill

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, US Fuels, European Fuels 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.


The table above shows the carrying amount of goodwill for the segment at the period end 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 most recent test. The reduction in headroom since the prior period principally relates to the impact of changes to price assumptions.

No impairment of the Upstream goodwill balance was recognized during 2020 (2019 $386 million).

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, as they do not represent 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 each field is computed using appropriate individual economic models and key assumptions agreed by bp management.

Estimated production volumes and cash flows up to the date of cessation of production on a field-by-field basis, including operating and capital expenditure, are derived from the business segment plan. 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. Oil and gas price assumptions and discount rate assumptions used were as disclosed in Note 1. The average production for the purposes of goodwill impairment testing over the next 15 years is 877 mmboe per year (2019 829 mmboe per year). The weighted average pre-tax discount rate used in the test is 11% (2019 12%).

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. 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 or production 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 or savings. A detailed calculation at any given price or production profile may, therefore, produce a different result. Adverse changes in input assumptions applied in respect to assets carried at or close to their value in use, primarily being those assets previously impaired, would have a limited effect on goodwill headroom, instead resulting in a direct impairment of the particular cash-generating unit’s net book value. Conversely, a reduction in the value in use of those assets carried at a value below their respective values in use would result in an adverse impact on the goodwill headroom. It is estimated that a 21% reduction in revenue throughout each year of the remaining life of those assets, either as a result of adverse price or production conditions or a combination of each, 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 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.


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 2020 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.