BP has today appointed Irishman Bernard Looney as chief executive to succeed Bob Dudley when he retires next year after leading the oil and gas company back to growth from near collapse in 2010. 

Kerryman Bernard Looney, 49, took charge of BP's oil and gas production, or upstream operations, in 2016 as the sector grappled with the aftermath of the 2014 collapse in oil prices. 

The Irishman's energetic management style was quickly felt as he spearheaded BP's drive to improve performance through cost cutting and digitalisation. 

He has led BP through one of its periods of fastest growth in oil and gas production.

Output has risen by around 20% since 2016 with the launch of more than 20 new major projects around the world and the acquisition of BHP's portfolio of US shale assets this year for $10.5 billion was BP's biggest deal in three decades.

As CEO, Mr Looney will be charged with continuing to adapt BP to the transition to lower carbon energy as pressure from investors to meet climate change targets grow. 

Mr Looney grew up in Co Kerry and in 1991 gained a degree in Electrical Engineering from University College Dublin. He later received a MS in Management from Stanford Graduate School of Business. 

"Bernard is a terrific choice to lead the company next," Bob Dudley, who turned 64 last month, said in a statement. 

"He knows BP and our industry as well as anyone but is creative and not bound by traditional ways of working. I have no doubt that he will thoughtfully lead BP through the transition to a low carbon future," he added. 

Bob Dudley will step down as CEO after the company's full-year results on February 4 and will retire on March 31, BP said.

Outgoing BP CEO Bob Dudley

He was appointed to the top job in 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Mr Dudley led the company through near-bankruptcy after it caused the largest oil spill in US history and through an oil price crash four years later. 

Preparations for Dudley's departure were accelerated after Helge Lund became BP chairman in January with a mandate to oversee succession plans. 

Mr Dudley succeeded Tony Hayward who stepped down in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster that left 11 rig workers dead. 

He has had to navigate a vast asset disposal to pay for more than $60 billion in litigation and clean-up costs followed by a landmark settlement with US authorities. 

He has also overseen BP's efforts to address growing investor pressure to meet targets under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to fight climate change by investing in renewable energy and reducing BP's carbon emissions. 

"As the company charts its course through the energy transition this is a logical time for a change," chairman Lund said in a statement. 

Bob Dudley has enjoyed overwhelming support from investors at BP's annual general meetings, however a majority of shareholders opposed his 2016 pay package, forcing the company to slash it by 40%. 

Mr Looney is the second Irish man to secure the top job at a major UK company this week.

Tesco said on Tuesday that its new CEO will be Corkman Ken Murphy,  a former executive at healthcare group Walgreens Boots Alliance. 

Mr Murphy will succeed Dave Lewis who is planning to step down next summer.