Syrian challenge for new OVL managing director

Vol 14, PW 22 (05 May 11) People & Policy

Syria’s rapidly escalating uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad will be one of many challenges awaiting the next managing director and CEO of ONGC Videsh, the overseas exploration arm of ONGC.

PETROWATCH learns the PESB advertised the OVL managing director post on April 19 and wants interested candidates to submit CVs by June 10, 2011. Among those expected to apply are ONGC director finance DK Sarraf; OVL director finance SP Garg; ONGC executive director and chief of marginal fields JG Chaturvedi; and Ashok Varma, chief executive of OVL subsidiary Imperial Energy.

But whoever wins the coveted post will have his work cut out managing OVL’s interests in 52 fields and exploration blocks across 13 countries. Over time OVL has begun pulling out of countries that are ‘politically unstable’, says an analyst, to ‘de-risk its portfolio’ and has stopped looking for investment opportunities in the Middle East because of the prevailing unrest.

Any new MD will have to contend with the implications of the popular Syrian uprising which began in the country’s south-western city of Da’ara in March but is growing increasingly more violent as it continues to spread north and east. OVL has held an 18.75% stake in the producing Al Furat project, made up of 34 oilfields in eastern Syria, since July 2005.

Al Furat produces 96,974 b/d of crude, of which OVL’s share is 18,182 b/d. OVL also holds 60% in Block-XXIV in central-eastern Syria where operator IPR Mediterranean Exploration made three oil discoveries in 2009.

But a senior OVL source remains strangely unperturbed by recent reports of violent clashes between Syrian security forces and demonstrators. “There’s no cause for worry in Syria right now,” he says.

“Our operations are progressing normally. Protests are limited to only two cities.