The government has stepped up engagement with global energy giants, with PM Narendra Modi scheduled to interact with top CEOs and ministers at CERA Week, a flagship event, which starts on Monday. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan tells TOI that the government has successfully used the energy space to address consumer needs, while turning it into a diplomatic and trade tool. He also said India has stuck to its commitments on climate change, despite not being a pollutant. Excerpts:
CERA Week starts next week, what is the expectation?
It will give us an opportunity to interact with the global players. Prime Minister will meet CEOs of large energy companies, such as Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin, BP’s Bernard Looney and Total’s Patrick Pouyanne, apart from US energy secretary and Saudi energy minister. Since 2014, when Narendra Modi took office, energy has been a key thrust area. He spoke of de-carbonisation at the Paris Summit and sought to bring energy justice through the five pillars of affordability, accessibility, efficiency, sustainability, and energy security. We have taken several initiatives towards these objectives. There are two extreme narratives globally, one anti-fossil fuel and the other is to stick to the path despite whatever happens. India has sought to develop a new path. Clean energy will be used to meet India’s incremental energy requirement, which will be a substantial part of the global demand. We are not just focusing on petroleum but also other energy sectors, where there have been a series of reforms. Coal to methane has been a primary strategy. India is emerging as a cleaner, efficient and costeffective base. PM Modi has used energy as an instrument to create a new model and strengthen our relations with the Gulf countries. We are not just meeting our import requirements but also leveraging it for national security, protecting our trade interests and ensuring safety and security of our people there who provide remittance. The UAE has given us access to a producing field, which was not the case earlier.
Given the steps that have been taken, do you think Donald Trump’s statement on India’s air being filthy is correct in the context of climate change?
PM Modi was awarded with the UN’s highest environmental honour. We had committed to COP21 and we have stuck to it, not gone back on it, despite the fact that we are not pollutants. Steps such as BS6, LPG access, LED in households, a shift towards a gas-based economy and focus on solar energy and electric vehicles are all meant to reduce carbon emission.
Is demand for oil products back to normal?
We are moving towards normal operations. By fourth quarter, we will be back to business as usual.
As part of BPCL disinvestment, what is happening to Bina and Numaligarh refineries and when will the sale take place?
Bina Refinery is proposed to be merged with BPCL since it will be more viable. Numaligarh Refinery has been hived off and OIL will hold a 74% stake with the Assam government having the remaining share. The timing will be suggested by the transaction adviser.
How do you see the last round of bidding as it was below expectation?
Our objective is production maximisation and not revenue maximisation. That is why we have increased its weight in the bidding criteria. Marketing and pricing freedom are linked to it and they are very progressive parameters. Globally, there is reservation towards fossil fuel, although I consider it temporary. Covid-19 and the anti-fossil fuel sentiment have had an influence, but both are temporary.