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India CEO series: ExxonMobil eyes bigger footprint in India's energy transition journey


Eying bigger role in unlocking the country's hydrocarbon potential

Developing technologies to make refining less energy intensive

Sees hydrogen's role in hard-to-decarbonize sectors, like heavy-duty trucks

The S&P Global Platts India CEO Series is a compilation of exclusive interviews with the leaders of top oil and gas companies in India. Get insights on how they are planning their growth roadmap at a time when energy transition is changing the industry's landscape, how companies are finding their way through the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as solutions needed to meet the country's insatiable appetite for energy.

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India's ambitions to make its energy basket cleaner has provided ExxonMobil an opportunity to pursue a series of initiatives -- from innovating to accelerate India's gas access to eying a role in unlocking the country's hydrocarbon potential, Bill Davis, CEO and lead country manager for ExxonMobil South Asia told S&P Global Platts.

Bill Davis - ExxonMobil South Asia | Platts India CEO Series 2021
Bill Davis, CEO and lead country manager, ExxonMobil South Asia

In India's road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and towards energy security, not only would there be higher demand for lower emission and affordable energy, but finding hydrocarbon resources domestically would be crucial.

ExxonMobil is working with various stakeholders in the government and the industry to support those aspirations, Davis said. He added that with India aiming to advance a very large population to modern living standards at an acceptable pace, the country will need to deploy every available source of energy.

"There is no denying the need to simultaneously pursue further emission reduction efforts and technologies to support the transition to a lower carbon future. It's really a question of doing it in a smart way," Davis told Platts.

"We are developing technologies to make refining less energy intensive and researching breakthroughs to make future solutions like carbon capture more economic for diverse applications. A large part of our focus is on making these solutions affordable for broad adoption, especially in the emerging world," he added.

With India increasingly looking to expand the share of natural gas in its energy mix -- currently less than 7% -- ExxonMobil is keen to play an active role in helping unlock the country's gas potential, Davis said.

"That's why we are developing virtual gas pipelines with Indian Oil Corp. and Chart Industries, to help solve the last-mile connectivity challenge and address the immediate demand for lower emission, gas-based energy," he said.

"Another real advantage of virtual pipelines is that we can leverage India's strong technological capabilities and drive a new 'Made-In-India' industrial sector to supply the necessary tanks and equipment," he added.

The transportation sector, being a key component of India's transition to a gas-based economy, is another focus area for the company. India is preparing for LNG adoption as a vehicular fuel, and ExxonMobil is working with GAIL to build attractive opportunities that add impetus to India's plans in this space, Davis said.

Energy access and security

Davis added that natural gas would do part of the heavy-lifting to support economic growth following the pandemic, while improving living standards and reducing emissions. ExxonMobil is working with leading Indian energy majors to accelerate gas access for industries, transportation and other applications.

"As India transitions to lower carbon sources, it has concrete emission reduction plans consistent with making energy access more equitable and affordable. Natural gas is set to play a key role not only in the long-term transition to a lower carbon future but also in the near term," Davis said.

He added that India was rapidly expanding its gas infrastructure, setting in motion gas-market reforms and supporting industry efforts to bring natural gas on par with other fuels.

"On the other side, India is taking a host of encouraging steps to invite global interest in offshore exploration, and we appreciate the petroleum ministry's willingness to make the sector more attractive. Additionally, we want to support India's energy security needs by helping to find more hydrocarbon resources domestically," he added.

Davis said ExxonMobil would continue to work with India to promote the use of natural gas in the power sector. Gas-fired power generation can play a critical role in modernizing India's power sector and extend the scope for renewables.

"While India can leverage the extensive gas-fired generation capacity it already has, what will help further is giving more flexibility -- both commercial and operational -- to power producers," Davis said.

Also in the Platts India CEO Series:

From oil to hydrogen, energy transition to have room for all: Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, IOC chairman

Shell sees opportunity for India to recover 'cleaner and faster': Nitin Prasad, Shell Companies - India CEO

India aims to cushion oil shock by doubling strategic petroleum reserves: H.P.S. Ahuja, ISPRL CEO

Cairn Oil & Gas says oil price recovery will support India's upstream push: Prachur Sah, Cairn Deputy CEO

Retail gas, LNG by trucks, hydrogen figure in H-Energy's growth vision: Darshan Hiranandani, H-Energy CEO

The hydrogen dream

ExxonMobil is one of the world's largest producers of hydrogen. As the potential for this and the transition to a lower carbon future develops in India, Davis said ExxonMobil was well positioned to apply its experience, scale and technology to contribute.

"Hydrogen can be useful in hard-to-decarbonize sectors, such as fuel for heavy-duty trucks, and to produce high temperature industrial heat for steel, refining and chemical industries. Low carbon hydrogen from natural gas with carbon capture and storage, or CCS, has cost and scale advantages in the near and medium term," Davis said.

ExxonMobil has created a new business to commercialize its extensive low carbon technology portfolio. The new business, ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions, will initially focus on CCS. It will also leverage ExxonMobil's experience in the production of hydrogen which, when coupled with CCS, is likely to play a critical role in a lower carbon energy system.

Davis said as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues in India, it should further support demand recovery.

"Although we will, doubtless, see some effects from the second COVID-19 wave, India's ability to navigate challenges continues to improve. Against this background, we expect India to revert towards a stable overall consumption trajectory over the course of the year," he added.

As the spread of COVID-19 across India continues to intensify, local communities are critically in need of resources and support. S&P Global has announced USD $1M in grants from the S&P Global Foundation to directly support India relief efforts, which will be allocated to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Direct Relief, Nirmaan Organization and Project HOPE. These funds will support their efforts to strengthen healthcare centers and emergency response, as well as distribute critically needed oxygen supplies across India. Click here to learn more about the S&P Global Foundation.