Puri admits headless ONGC-PNGRB a problem

Vol 24, PW 23 (07 Oct 21) People & Policy

Friendly and down to earth, oil minister Hardeep Singh Puri is showing he is very different from his bombastic predecessor Dharmendra Pradhan.

Puri is anything but an autocrat and showed his humility when this report approached him during a DGH-sponsored investor seminar in Guwahati on September 24 (2021). Petrowatch asked how the government expects to double production when the country's largest producer (ONGC) has no chairman and managing director? Taken aback, Puri responded by admitting all is not well.

"Yes, I have inherited this situation," he acknowledged. "What you are saying is correct, but soon we will have a change."

Former ONGC chairman Shashi Shanker stepped down on March 31 (2021) and was replaced by interim chairman Subhash Kumar who retires in December (2021). Despite interviewing candidates on June 4 (2021), the PESB did not recommend any full-time replacement.

Oil India is also without a director exploration since P Chandrasekaran retired on June 30 (2021). Oil India director HR Biswajit Roy retired the same day and is also yet to be replaced.

Minutes before speaking to this report, Puri had addressed investors, and oil companies on how exploration acreage needs to be doubled and production must increase by 67% by 2025. Puri's assurance of a new ONGC chairman soon should soothe anxious contractors worried by uncertainty.

Morale is low at ONGC, especially after the offshore Mumbai tragedy during Cyclone Tauktae on May 17 (2021), when 86 workers on two vessels died. Oil India is also worried about the lack of an HR director.

Puri also admitted that the PNGRB is without leadership at the top. "There has been a problem even with the regulator," he said, before adding: "Of course, now we have two members (AK Tiwari and Gajendra Singh)."

Last month (September) the PMO tasked Puri with selecting one of three names for the PNGRB chairman position.