Energy Roundtable: CEOs say India’s energy independence hinges on better infrastructure

Ritu Jha-


India needs better infrastructure if it has to become energy efficient, the CEOs who attended the Energy Roundtable with Prime Minister Narendra Modi held at The Post Oak in Houston on Sept 21 said.

Lorenzo Simonelli, chairman and CEO of Baker Hughes, told indica the meeting was positive and Prime Minister Modi shared his vision for India’s energy needs.

Baker Hughes, headquartered in Houston and owned by General Electric, operates in India under Baker Hughes Oilfield Services India Private Limited. The company has an office in Mumbai.

Simonelli said India has the opportunity to own its energy sources but to be truly independent it needs to improve its infrastructure and have a mix of energy sources, focusing on the environmental impact while being conscious of the growing population and its needs.

Another CEO who attended the meeting, Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum, told indica, “We are just looking at the opportunities; we do not have any office yet in India.”

But Hollub, the first woman to head a major American petroleum company, was impressed by the Prime Minister and that he remembered all the comments made by all the CEOs during the meeting.

“It was my first time meeting the Prime Minister and [we are] just exploring, not investing in India yet. But we always like to know what’s happening and who is doing what. I thought it would be good to come over and meet him,” she said.

On the Energy Roundtable, she said, “I think he is exploring too, taking feedback on operations in India and trying to figure out how to attract more investment.”

Bhavesh V Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell Industries, an NYSE-listed company with a turnover of $40 Billion and an office in Mumbai, told indica, “The meeting was about India’s energy evolution. How they want to go to more natural gas and build infrastructure. Also, the importance of local drilling.”

Patel, too, said India would need to develop a lot of infrastructures. “This is very high on his [Modi’s] agenda,” the CEO said. “He is well informed and very motivated to do this.”

Asked what Modi ought to do more, and his observations as an investor in India, Patel said the execution of plans needs to improve and more infrastructure, including ports and pipelines, needs to be built. “If he just focuses on that he will get it done,” he said. “Focus, get things done, and then go on to the next.”

Patel was also happy that Modi spoke to him in Gujarati. “I want to support our Prime Minister. I’m a proud Indian,” said the LyondellBasell CEO, whose company manufactures the plastics used in automobiles. “Our plastics make the automobile lighter, so companies are replacing steel with plastics and it is fuel-efficient. We supply to Mahindras and Tatas, to name a few.”

On the sidelines of the Energy Roundtable, India’s Petronet LNG inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with US liquefied natural gas (LNG) developer Tellurian Inc for up to five million tons of LNG through equity investment in Driftwood Holdings, a subsidiary located in Louisiana.

Later, India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted that Prime Minister Modi had had a “fruitful interaction” with top energy-sector CEOs. “Discussions focused on working together for energy security and expanding mutual investment opportunities between India and the US,” he said.

Sixteen leading multinational companies attended the CEOs roundtable. The companies represented were Baker Hughes, British Petroleum, Cheniere Energy, Dominion Energy, Emerson Electric Company, ExxonMobil, Perot Group and Hillwood, IHS Markit, LyondellBasell Industries, McDermott, Schlumberger, Tellurian, Total, Air Products, Vinmar International and Westlake Chemicals.

Houston is the oil and gas capital of the United States. India and the US had last year inked the US-India Strategic Energy Partnership to enhance collaboration in energy cooperation.

The US began selling crude oil to India in 2017 and is becoming a major source thanks to the embargo on Iran. Supplies from the US jumped more than fourfold to 6.4 million tonnes in the fiscal year 2018-19. In fiscal 2017-18, the first year of imports from the US, the supplies were at 1.4 million tonnes.

India has purchased about 184,000 barrels per diem (bpd) of oil from the US from November 2018 to May 2019.