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21 December 2020, Gateway House

India’s energy investments: A fresh approach

India’s investments in energy thus far have concentrated on buying stakes in oilfields in developing countries often at the risk of political unpredictability. With oil prices, and therefore oil company values, falling – India should revise this strategy and aim for better value and lower risk by making investments in companies in the developed world. This paper recommends investing in oil and gas assets in energy-rich developed countries like the U.S., Canada and Australia, to reduce India's vulnerability to future increases in energy prices. These should be made via a sovereign wealth fund (SWF), not the national oil companies. The SWF will be best served by acting as a financial investor, acquiring, only minority stakes, rather than aiming for management control.

Fellow, Energy & Environment Studies Programme

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Executive Summary 

Oil is the single largest item in India’s import bill as India relies on imports for over 80% of its oil requirement. The annual import of 1.6 billion barrels of crude oil makes India vulnerable to sharp spikes in energy prices. With limited domestic reserves, India has tried to reduce its vulnerability by investing in oil and gas fields overseas. State-owned oil companies have over 50 overseas investments spread across South America, Africa, West Asia and the former-Soviet Union, all of which have large oil reserves. Investments must be made where the oil is, and often, these tend to be volatile regions. Political volatility in some places like Venezuela, Iran and Sudan/South-Sudan, for example, has led to trouble for a few of India’s investments. The purpose of investing as protection against price fluctuations gets defeated when geopolitical or other unrest leads to oil production reduction.

You can download the PDF of the paper here.

Amit Bhandari is Fellow, Energy & Environment Studies Programme, Gateway House.

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