5 Use of accounting estimates
The preparation of the Consolidated Financial Statements requires the use of estimates and assumptions that affect the assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses reported in the financial statements, as well as amounts included in the notes thereto, including discussion and disclosure of contingent liabilities. Estimates made are based on complex or subjective judgments and past experience of other assumptions deemed reasonable in consideration of the information available at the time. The accounting policies and areas that require the most significant judgments and estimates to be used in the preparation of the Consolidated Financial Statements are in relation to the accounting for oil and natural gas activities, specifically in the determination of proved and proved developed reserves, impairment of fixed assets, intangible assets and goodwill, asset retirement obligations, business combinations, pensions and other post-retirement benefits, recognition of environmental liabilities and recognition of revenues in the oilfield services construction and engineering businesses. Although the Company uses its best estimates and judgments, actual results could differ from the estimates and assumptions used. A summary of significant estimates follows.
Oil and gas activities
Engineering estimates of the Company’s oil and gas reserves are inherently uncertain. Proved reserves are the estimated volumes of crude oil, natural gas and gas condensates, liquids and associated substances which geological and engineering data demonstrate that can be economically producible with reasonable certainty from known reservoirs under existing economic conditions and operating methods. Although there are authoritative guidelines regarding the engineering and geological criteria that must be met before estimated oil and gas reserves can be designated as “proved”, the accuracy of any reserve estimate is a function of the quality of available data, engineering and geological interpretation and judgment. Field reserves will only be categorized as proved when all the criteria for attribution of proved status have been met. At this stage, all booked reserves are classified as proved undeveloped. Volumes are subsequently reclassified from proved undeveloped to proved developed as a consequence of development activity. The first proved developed bookings occur at the point of first oil or gas production. Major development projects typically take one to four years from the time of initial booking to the start of production. Eni reassesses its estimate of proved reserves periodically. The estimated proved reserves of oil and natural gas may be subject to future revision and upward and downward revision may be made to the initial booking of reserves due to production, reservoir performance, commercial factors, acquisition and divestment activity and additional reservoir development activity. In particular, changes in oil and natural gas prices could impact the amount of Eni’s proved reserves in regards to the initial estimate and, in the case of production-sharing agreements and buyback contracts, the share of production and reserves to which Eni is entitled. Accordingly, the estimated reserves could be materially different from the quantities of oil and natural as that ultimately will be recovered. Oil and natural gas reserves have a direct impact on certain amounts reported in the Consolidated Financial Statements. Estimated proved reserves are used in determining depreciation and depletion expenses and impairment expense. Depreciation and depletion rates on oil and gas assets using the UOP basis are determined from the ratio between the amount of hydrocarbons extracted in the quarter and proved developed reserves existing at the end of the quarter increased by the amounts extracted during the quarter. Assuming all other variables are held constant, an increase in estimated proved developed reserves for each field decreases depreciation and depletion expense. Conversely, a decrease in estimated proved developed reserves increases depreciation and depletion expense. In addition, estimated proved reserves are used to calculate future cash flows from oil and gas properties, which are used to assess any impairment loss. The larger is the volume of estimated reserves, the lower is the likelihood of asset impairment.
Impairment of assets
Assets are impaired when there are events or changes in circumstances that indicate the carrying values of the assets are not recoverable. Such impairment indicators include changes in the Group’s business plans, changes in commodity prices leading to unprofitable performance, a reduced utilization of the plants and, for oil and gas properties, significant downward revisions of estimated proved reserve quantities or significant increase of the estimated development costs. Determination as to whether and how much an asset is impaired involves management estimates on highly uncertain and complex matters such as future commodity prices, the effects of inflation and technology improvements on operating expenses, production profiles and the outlook for global or regional market supply and demand conditions for crude oil, natural gas, commodity chemicals and refined products. Similar remarks are valid for the physical recoverability of assets recognized in the balance sheet (deferred costs – see also item “Current assets”) related to natural gas volumes not collected under long-term purchase contracts with take-or-pay clauses as well as for the recoverability of deferred tax assets. The amount of an impairment loss is determined by comparing the book value of an asset with its recoverable amount. The recoverable amount is the greater of fair value net of disposal cost or the value in use.
The estimated value in use is based on the present values of expected future cash flows net of disposal costs. The expected future cash flows used for impairment analyses are based on judgmental assessments of future production volumes, prices and costs, considering available information at the date of review and are discounted by using a rate which considers the risks specific to the asset. For oil and natural gas properties, the expected future cash flows are estimated principally based on developed and non-developed proved reserves including, among other elements, production taxes and the costs to be incurred for the reserves yet to be developed. Oil, natural gas and petroleum product prices (and prices from products which are derived there from) used to quantify the expected future cash flows are estimated based on forward prices prevailing in the marketplace for the first four years and management’s long-term planning assumptions thereafter. The estimate of the future amount of production is based on assumptions related to the commodity future prices, lifting and development costs, field decline rates, market demand and other factors. The discount rate reflects the current market valuation of the time value of money and of the specific risks of the asset not reflected in the estimate of the future cash flows. Goodwill and other intangible assets with an indefinite useful life are not subject to amortization. The Company tests for impairment such assets at the cash-generating unit level on an annual basis and whenever there is an indication that they may be impaired In particular, goodwill impairment is based on the lowest level (cash generating unit) to which goodwill can be allocated on a reasonable and consistent basis. A cash generating unit is the smallest aggregate on which the Company, directly or indirectly, evaluates the return on the capital expenditure. If the recoverable amount of a cash generating unit is lower than the carrying amount, goodwill attributed to that cash generating unit is impaired up to that difference; if the carrying amount of goodwill is lower than the amount of the impairment loss, the assets of the cash generating unit are impaired pro-rata on the basis of their carrying amount for the residual difference.
Asset retirement obligations
Obligations to remove tangible equipment and restore land or seabed require significant estimates in calculating the amount of the obligation and determining the amount required to be recorded presently in the Consolidated Financial Statements. Estimating future asset retirement obligations is complex. It requires management to make estimates and judgments with respect to removal obligations that will come to term many years into the future and contracts and regulations are often unclear as to what constitutes removal. In addition, the ultimate financial impact of environmental laws and regulations is not always clearly known as asset removal technologies and costs constantly evolve in the Countries where Eni operates, as do political, environmental, safety and public expectations. The subjectivity of these estimates is also increased by the accounting method used that requires entities to record the fair value of a liability for an asset retirement obligation in the period when it is incurred (typically, at the time the asset is installed at the production location). When provisions are initially recognized, the related fixed assets are increased by an equal corresponding amount. Then the carrying amount of provisions is adjusted to reflect the passage of time and any change in the estimates following the modification of future cash flows and discount rates adopted. The discount rate used to determine the provision is based on managerial judgments.
Accounting for business combinations requires the allocation of the purchase price to the identifiable assets and liabilities of the acquired business at their fair values. Any positive residual difference is recognized as “Goodwill”. Any negative residual difference is recognized in the profit and loss account. Management uses all available information to make these fair value measurements and, for major business combinations, engages independent external advisors.
As other oil and gas companies, Eni is subject to numerous EU, national, regional and local environmental laws and regulations concerning its oil and gas operations, production and other activities. They include legislations that implement international conventions or protocols. Environmental costs are recognized when it becomes probable that a liability will be incurred and a reliable estimate can be made of the amount of the obligation. Management, considering the actions already taken, insurance policies obtained to cover environmental risks and provision for risks accrued, does not expect any material adverse effect on Eni’s consolidated results of operations and financial position as a result of such laws and regulations. However, there can be no assurance that there will not be a material adverse impact on Eni’s consolidated results of operations and financial position due to: (i) the possibility of an unknown contamination; (ii) the results of the ongoing surveys and other possible effects of statements required by applicable laws; (iii) the possible effects of future environmental legislations and rules; (iv) the effects of possible technological changes relating to future remediation; and (v) the possibility of litigation and the difficulty of determining Eni’s liability, if any, against other potentially responsible parties with respect to such litigations and the possible reimbursements.
Provisions for employee benefits
Defined benefit plans are evaluated with reference to uncertain events and based upon actuarial assumptions including among others discount rates, expected rates of salary increases, medical cost trends, estimated retirement dates and mortality rates. The significant assumptions used to account for defined benefit plans are determined as follows: (i) discount and inflation rates reflect the rates at which benefits could be effectively settled, taking into account the duration of the obligation. Indicators used in selecting the discount rate include market yields on high quality corporate bonds (or, in the absence of a deep market of these bonds, on the market yields on government bonds). The inflation rates reflect market conditions observed Country by Country; (ii) the future salary levels of the individual employees are determined including an estimate of future changes attributed to general price levels (consistent with inflation rate assumptions), productivity, seniority and promotion; (iii) healthcare cost trend assumptions reflect an estimate of the actual future changes in the cost of the healthcare related benefits provided to the plan participants and are based on past and current healthcare cost trends including healthcare inflation, changes in healthcare utilization and changes in health status of the participants; (iv) demographic assumptions such as mortality, disability and turnover reflect the best estimate of these future events for individual employees involved. Differences in the amount of the net defined benefit liability (asset), deriving from the remeasurements comprising, among others, changes in the current actuarial assumptions, differences in the previous actuarial assumptions and what has actually occurred and differences in the return on plan assets excluding amounts included in net interest, usually occur. Remeasurements are recognized within statement of comprehensive income for defined benefit plans and within profit and loss account for long-term plans.
Provisions for contingencies
In addition to environmental liabilities, asset retirement obligation and employee benefits, Eni recognizes provisions primarily related to litigations and tax issues. The estimate of these provisions is based on managerial judgments.
Revenue recognition in the Engineering & Construction segment is based on the stage of completion of a contract as measured on the cost-to-cost basis applied to contractual revenues. Use of the stage of completion method requires estimates of future gross profit on a contract by contract basis. The future gross profit represents the profit remaining after deducting costs attributable to the contract from revenues provided for in the contract. The estimate of future gross profit is based on a complex estimation process that includes identification of risks related to the geographical region where the activity is carried out, market conditions in that region and any assessment that is necessary to estimate with sufficient precision the total future costs as well as the expected timetable to the end of the contract. Additional revenues, derived from a change in the scope of work, are included in the total amount of revenues when it is probable that the customer will approve the variation and the related amount. Claims deriving from additional costs incurred for reasons attributable to the customer are included in the total amount of revenues when it is probable that the counterparty will accept them.
Revenues from the sale of electricity and gas to retail customers include allocations for the supplies, occurred between the date of the last meters reading and the year end, not yet billed. These estimates are based on the difference between the volumes allocated by the grid managers and the billed volumes, as well as on other factors, considered by the management, which can impact on them.