‘India can help lead global recovery in energy space’
ExxonMobil, one of the few energy multinational companies in India, is feeling the disruptive economic effects induced by the covid-19 virus. Yet the long-term fundamentals for India, says Bill Davis, chief executive and lead country manager, South Asia, ExxonMobil India, remain strong, with a growing population. Besides, the increasingly able workforce is setting the stage for growing prosperity, he said in an interview. Edited excerpts:
Has the covid-19 pandemic impacted ExxonMobil’s India plans? If so, how?
We’re determined not to let covid-19 get in the way of our India vision. As India unlocks and gets back to business, we’re already seeing an uptick in energy demand towards pre-covid levels. That’s a good story, particularly with natural gas, which has been playing an ever greater role as a cleaner fuel for many applications. And overall, we see India as a place that can help lead the global recovery for energy. All the more reason we are determined to be catalysts in developing lasting energy solutions for the country.
What learning(s) has covid brought to your company?
We’re more adaptable now. Protecting the health of our team is the top priority. To do that while sustaining a business in a dynamic and uncertain environment required a lot of learning on the fly. We had to design special hygiene protocols for our facilities. We also had to learn how to operate our businesses with everyone temporarily working from home. And we had to learn how to support each other for as long as it takes, managing stresses both personally and as a team. Though we are still in the thick of it, I think we will ultimately emerge from covid with a greater measure of creativity, flexibility, and endurance. Those are the traits with lasting value.
Has ExxonMobil extended timelines for its India projects?
What’s actually been encouraging is how some of our activities have continued at pace. We continue to progress our recently announced “virtual gas pipeline” initiative with Indian Oil to create mobile gas infrastructure. The idea is to use LNG to accelerate and expand India’s gas access, driving a cleaner, more reliable energy mix. We are also working with GAIL Ltd to advance LNG as fuel in heavy commercial vehicles, supporting India’s vision of cleaner transportation. These initiatives could spur new manufacturing opportunities and India could emerge to take a global lead. That’s a vision of “Make in India” for the world.
PNGRB (Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board ) has allowed setting up of LNG dispensing units. Will ExxonMobil be looking at this option?
LNG as a vehicular fuel is one space we are excited about. We have a strong counterpart in GAIL with complementary strengths, and we are working with them to create new possibilities in transportation.
ExxonMobil is planning to set up a lubricant blending plant in India. Can you share some insights of that plan?
We are evaluating opportunities to expand our business operations in India to provide our customers with more choice and ensure easy availability of our highly advanced lubricants. To that end, we are working closely with the government of Maharashtra, which has been very responsive. Since our plans are in the early stages, I would look forward to sharing more as the opportunity evolves.
Are there new areas of expansion that you are looking at to diversify bets and spread risks?
Our portfolio of opportunities is the strongest it has been in more than two decades, and our focus remains on creating value by responsibly meeting the world’s need for reliable and affordable energy. Additionally, we continue to build collaborations with leading technology companies and universities globally to develop affordable, scalable energy solutions for tomorrow. In India, we are leveraging the outstanding research capabilities of IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Madras and Bombay on biofuels and bio-products, gas transport and conversion, and low-emissions technologies for the power and industrial sectors.