The combined effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have thrown the world’s energy markets into chaos, with the threat of blackouts across Europe, soaring prices and a scramble to find alternatives to Russian oil.
It’s also expedited a move toward cleaner fuels, but not always in a linear way.
“We’ve found ourselves at the heart of the paradox of continuing demand for fossil fuel products and a climate case for CO2 elimination,” says Manish Maheshwari, Chair of Invenire Energy, one of India’s largest oil and gas producers.
“The current situation rivals the 1970s when the world was again in the throes of a geopolitically induced energy crisis, so we have to accept that the world is predictably unpredictable.”
If anything, the challenges we’re facing today are worse than those 50 years ago.
The momentum toward a net zero world may be gaining pace, but at the same time, the number of barrels of oil produced daily is set to rise by three million a day by 2026.
Invenire has a portfolio of gas and oil assets in South-East Asia and east Africa, with a pore-to-pipeline presence.
“Our mission is to supply 1.5 billion people with affordable, accessible energy as we go through our decarbonization journey,” Maheshwari tells The CEO Magazine. “While we promote low carbon ventures where more is performed with less, there’s a real opportunity to make a virtue out of this necessity.”
To realize the vision of transcending from a carbon intensive present, to low carbon and eventually leading to a net zero carbon future, Invenire has established a wholly owned subsidiary, HoriZen Energy.
“We are following a balanced two-pronged approach,” Maheshwario explains. “Executing industrial scale transitional projects, which promote low carbon energy usage, and pursuing clean technology solutions with zero carbon emissions.”
He believes the supply side pressures in the market predate the Ukraine conflict, but it has nonetheless worsened an already desperate situation.
“It’s caused full-blown energy turmoil,” he says. “If anything, the challenges we’re facing today are worse than those 50 years ago. How we recover will depend on the degree of well-informed collaboration between governments and industry leaders to manage energy flow during this flux when the winds of transition are blowing but people still need fossil fuel.”
One potential solution, however, would be the wrong idea, he says. “One thing we really don’t want to do is turn to coal, as that really would be the greatest paradox,” Maheshwari explains.
“That said, consumption is currently at an unprecedented level due to the disruption to the arteries of the global energy trade.”
Career in the industry
Maheshwari has more than 25 years of experience in the upstream oil and gas sector and has been credited with turning around struggling businesses across sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia and setting them on a course for growth.
After studying chemical engineering, he began his career as a management trainee at Unilever before moving into the oil industry and becoming CEO of 7Energy, where he upped production to 60,000 barrels of crude a day.
My career has been a great learning experience. What I am today is the culmination of every role.
During his tenure as CEO of Hindustan Oil Exploration Company, the company’s value grew eight-fold, while as CEO of Essar Exploration and Production, he established it as the largest producer of coal bed methane in India.
Now, he oversees a company that supplies 10 percent of India’s crude oil and natural gas. “My career has been a great learning experience,” he says.
The Sustainability Challenge
Invenire has focused considerable resources on reducing its carbon footprint and developing cleaner technologies. But moving completely away from fossil fuels is still an impossibility.
“We’re operating in emerging economies where we need ‘energy equity’ and the need for a great deal of affordable fuel,” Maheshwari says.
“As things stand, we really can’t afford to switch off supplies of cheap energy to those who desperately need it, yet we’re being a responsible corporate citizen by investing heavily into sustainable alternatives.”
“What I am today is the culmination of every role. Confidence and ability to set up Invenire came through a mindset of continuous learning, a hands-on-the-deck approach and having a great team with a ‘make-it-happen’ attitude.
“For me, it’s no longer work, it’s an all-consuming mission that’s even blurred the boundaries of night and day. That’s the fun part.”