* Interim CEO Auchincloss seen as front runner -sources

* Carol Howle, Emma Delaney also in the race -sources

* External candidates also being considered

* Decision expected to be announced in Q1 2024 -sources

LONDON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - BP's board has short-listed interim CEO Murray Auchincloss and two senior female executives as internal candidates to replace Bernard Looney as chief executive, three company and industry sources told Reuters.

BP was thrown into turmoil after Looney resigned on Sept. 12 for failing to disclose relationships with employees and leaving no clear succession plan in place.

The company's people and governance committee under BP Chairman Helge Lund is now focussed internally on Auchincloss, head of trading and shipping Carol Howle and Emma Delaney, head of customers and products, the sources said.

The committee, which is expected to reach a decision in the coming weeks, is also considering external candidates, the sources said.

Howle or Delaney would become the first woman to lead one of the five top Western oil and gas companies.

An internal appointment would also signal board support for continuing BP's current strategy which aims to slash carbon emissions, build up renewables and clean fuel capacity while cutting oil and gas output by 2030, the sources said.

An announcement on the appointment is expected in the first quarter of next year, Reuters reported earlier this month citing industry sources.

A BP spokesperson said "the process to appoint a new CEO is under way. We won't comment on detail or on speculation regarding potential candidates."

BP had previously said it would consider internal and external candidates.

Auchincloss, Howle and Delaney are all members of BP's leadership team and were appointed by Looney after he took office in February 2020.

Auchincloss is seen as the most likely choice among the three given his experience leading the company and working with investors and the board, several equity analysts and investors have said.

He was key in formulating changes Looney made to the company's strategy in February, including slowing down BP's retreat from oil and gas and reducing spending on renewables in an effort to improve returns.

"We see the confirmation (of Auchincloss) as important symbolically to show a steady ship," RBC Capital Markets analyst Biraj Borkhataria said, adding that an external choice could add to uncertainty.

Still, Auchincloss's close association with Looney could work against him, two BP sources said.

Howle has over 20 years of experience at BP and has held several senior roles in one of the world's largest energy trading divisions, becoming former CEO Bob Dudley's head of office before joining Looney's leadership team in 2020.

Delaney has worked at BP since 1995 in marketing and commercial roles in the Middle East and Asia. She joined Looney's transition leadership team in 2019 and later became head of customers and products, a key growth market in BP's strategy due to its vast network of petrol and charging stations.

Looney's departure sparked an investigation into his past relationships involving an external law firm and left no clear succession plan in place.

BP announced last week it would claw back $40 million from Looney's remuneration package after concluding that he had lied over his relationships with employees.

(Reporting by Ron Bousso; editing by Jason Neely)