Energy” is a constantly evolving industry and therefore “collaborations” whether equity based or as service providers or technical consultants are common. These collaborations take place between institutions, companies or governments. But, for collaborations to succeed the key is “implementation”.

Ask any industry veteran and they will agree that collaborations happened in the past too, but they were not highlighted. For example, almost 20-30 years back ONGC employed a technical consultant for its most successful asset Mumbai High, but it wasn’t talked about much.

Any stream of energy — oil and gas, renewable or the latest hydrogen — is an evolving and high technology driven industry, which is changing at a rapid pace. For example rapid digitisation is taking place and Indian companies are quick to adopt it through collaborations.

India is now among the top three energy consuming countries of the world. According to the European Commission, “Its energy sector is set to keep growing in the coming decade as the country focuses on domestic energy production including renewables, nuclear and energy efficiency.”

Whether it is for transition from fossil to non-fossil environment or producing cleaner energy through fossil fuel, expertise is required and collaboration is a natural process. Be it through joint ventures or consortiums.

‘Clean’ collaborations

For example, through the EU-India Clean Energy and Climate Partnership, the EU aims to strengthen its cooperation with India in the field of renewable energy, while supporting its clean energy transition and ambitious climate mitigation targets. The collaboration is focused, among other activities, on solar energy, offshore wind energy, integration of renewable energy and storage, smart grids, biofuels and energy efficiency in buildings, and also on renewable hydrogen.

Where do such collaborations happen? What is the role institutions or events like Davos or energy summits play?

While these places are good for networking, they do not always result in a concrete relationship, said an industry insider. Many memoranda of understanding are signed, but not all are executed. The reason being execution depends on the strategy of the company involved or its requirement.

Arun Kumar Singh, Chairman ONGC, had said ONGC has mature and discovered fields where collaboration is required for cutting the cost and enhancing production. Even for the new finds collaboration is required.

According to Singh, there are five areas where his company can explore collaborations at such conferences — exploration, as ONGC has to explore fast and deepwater explorations are harvesting good dividend globally, Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) and Increased Oil Recovery (IOR) — ONGC has some expertise there and can share knowledge and data, renewable, carbon capture, storage and sequestration (CCUS) and hydrogen.

According to Ehsan Ul-Haq, Lead Analyst at Refinitiv in London: “I think Indian companies are well aware of situation in other countries. Executives of Indian oil and gas companies already have knowledge about what they want to talk about. It is one thing to meet others at conferences and evince interest in buying oil from a particular country, but more critical is to formalise it. Take the talk to the next level.”

Taking it to the next level to formalise it is vastly a commercial decision, he said. But here again there are some countries where talks take place between two governments, but again there are countries where it is commercial like in the US, he added. “Even OPEC has been talking to some US executives seeking cooperation,” he pointed out.

Need for spadework

Therefore, for any collaboration to succeed proper homework needs to be done, he said. “Like for example the South Africans who have been participating in the Davos conference for the past three years, found that nothing concrete has come out, so this time they are not there. Or take the example of floods in Pakistan. The local minister had been talking about a lot on climate change at these conferences but see what happened,” he said.

For coping with energy transition, collaboration is the accepted norm. Collaboration also works in situations like what is happening at present with Russia.

“There is a price cap in Europe. But, Europe can buy processed or refined petroleum products from India. A lot of blending of Russian diesel with Indian diesel is happening. It works for India too as lot of new refineries are going on stream in the Middle East, thus there will be enough diesel available. India has to compete. It can sell some diesel in the Mediterranean market. In Europe things are changing very fast and the shift to EV will be done by 2030,” he said.

Energy transition is an area where expertise and skill is most in demand today. Refineries or petrochemicals work on complicated technical systems and worldwide players who have the technology collaborate. Energy transition is a very commercial issue in the West.

It is also crucial to create a knowledge bank. It is not necessary for collaborations to happen at conferences. They can fructify in smaller groups or one-on-one meetings.

India is one of the countries with which the West is engaging to conclude a partnership on energy transition this year during the country’s G20 Presidency. The implementation of Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), is a priority for the European Commission, which is committed to working together through the G7 to ensure that this model sets a good example for the broader benefit of developing countries seeking coordinated support to implement their own ambitious net-zero and climate resilient plans.

While all these sound good on paper, the key is implementation and this can happen only if a focussed approach is adopted. In some cases the governments need to take the initiative, but in most cases it is purely commercial – company to company. So, a lot depends upon the strategy of the companies.