Pandey is Vasudeva's hope to revive Imperial

Vol 15, PW 24 (14 Jun 12) People & Policy

Geophysicist Prem Ballabh Pandey brings high ambition and an impressive list of successes to his new role as CEO of Russia-based Imperial Energy.

But will it be enough to reverse the flagging fortunes of this OVL subsidiary Formerly ONGC’s Western Onshore basin asset manager, 58-year-old Pandey took charge as Imperial chief on June 10, replacing Ashok Varma who held the post for a little over three years. Pandey is credited with setting a new record at the Western Onshore asset in 2010-11 by declaring seven oil and gas discoveries.

His long friendship with ONGC chairman Sudhir Vasudeva has also paid off. “Pandey has held charge of the basin manager post at Baroda (in Gujarat) for the last two and a half years,” we hear.

“Vasudeva was impressed with his performance and told him to keep up the good work at Imperial.” No easy task! Oil production from Imperial’s Siberian acreage - originally expected to hit a peak of 80,000 b/d - is languishing at an unimpressive 15,000 b/d from 100 wells.

Worse, a punitive tax regime imposed on all exploration companies operating in Russia’s Tomsk region makes even this meagre production barely profitable. Outgoing Imperial CEO Varma, who is moving to ONGC’s Kakinada-based eastern offshore asset as executive director, learnt his Siberian lesson the hard way.

OVL director finance Satpal Garg was likewise discouraged on May 24 after attending a meeting called by Tomsk authorities where exploration companies renewed calls for tax concessions on production. “Garg returned disappointed,” says a source.

“The Russians categorically refused tax concessions and rudely told those present to discuss something else!” Garg caught a flight back to India the same day. Imperial has no immediate plans to drill more wells.