‘Blockchain consortium model isn't working’

BP technology advisor traces the ‘interesting journey’ of blockchain consortia in oil and gas that ‘has not panned-out as we thought it would’

A recent podcast on the ‘Launchpad’, BP’s new energy community, heard Launchpad CTO Tom Grey grill Karen Scarborough*, Senior Technology Associate at BP, who stated that the earlier uses of blockchain were ‘not so practically applicable’. The use of blockchain in the supply chain has been an ‘interesting journey’ that ‘has not panned-out as we thought it would’.

BP was involved in a number of tracking and tracing applications to investigate the use of blockchain. A lot of thought was put into how consortia could be formed, with a private blockchain for energy providers, another private blockchain for say, banking. However, as Scarborough relates, ‘our original expectations did not pan-out as we thought. Only one new member has joined the consortium since it kicked-off. Thus far, the consortium model isn’t working. That’s not to say that some of that won’t change in the future.’ So what has made it that way? Is it the use case of the technology? ‘People thought that blockchain was going to be great for track and trace and supply chain management. It turns out that that is not really where blockchain shines. Blockchain is not meant to store a lot of data so it’s not a great tool for tracking and tracing. In fact, there are lots of legacy technologies that do this better’.

So what is left for blockchain? Scarborough, who is a leading light in the Ethereum blockchain community, thinks that although the private blockchains have failed, there is still ‘excitement’ in the public blockchain space, ‘where there are lots of apps with people actually using them, rather than the speculation we have seen in previous years’.

Even today BP’s procurement is less than perfect. Katy resident Angelica Garcia Dunn recently admitted to defrauding some $2.2 million from BP. Dunn was working as a contract escrow agent to BP, making vendor payments to its railcar lessors and repair vendors. A portion of the lump sum payments destined to these third parties ended up in her own business accounts.

Comment : Back in 2017, Oil IT Journal editor Neil McNaughton described blockchain’s use in commodity trading as ‘another misunderstanding’.

* Scarborough is a co-founder of Molecu, a BP-incubated carbon offset advisory boutique.

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