Black & Veatch is a leading global engineering, consulting,
construction and operations company specializing in
infrastructure development in sectors such as energy, water
and telecommunications. With revenue of $3.3 billion, the
company is ranked by Forbes as one of the largest privately
owned companies in the United States. The company has
already marked its presence in India and is looking to
extending its operations in the EPC domain with a focus
on power generation and LNG segment. Its Vice-President,
Global Energy Division, Anand Pattani talks to Neeraj
Dhankher on the opportunities being pursued in India and
the company’s growth plans. Excerpts.
Project implementation has
slowed down in India in recent
years due to delay in clearances.
What kind of challenges have you
faced so far?
The challenges are both external and
internal. There are internal challenges as
far as the developer is concerned who
is putting up a power plant. External
challenges include environment
clearances, issues with fuel linkages,
land acquisition and financing. Given our
experience in other parts of the world, we
can advise the clients on what is the best
way to mitigate these risks. For example,
if they are looking at fuel linkage, we
have a lot of information on where the
fuel can come from, its appropriate
property which would be right for India.
But more important are the
internal challenges. These revolve
around project execution. One of the
things that our company, as a global
leader, brings is very strong project
management practice. We believe that
first you plan the work and then you
work the plan. For example in
the case of a large power plant
which takes 50-60 months to
build, we would spend the first
six to seven months planning
the work. Once that is in place,
we work that plan diligently.
That’s our way of executing a
project on time and budget. The
other part where we can make
a difference is timely decision
making. Often, projects get delayed
because certain decisions whether
it is procurement of equipment or
something else, are not taken
on time. That can delay
the entire project.
We put a lot of
emphasis on taking
At times one has
to spend a little
more money but
if that can keep
intact then we take that decision. We also have
a strong focus on health and safety.
Our safety record is one of the best in
What is your view on the business
environment in India?
We are looking at India in the long term.
The short term shows a lot of challenges.
But the fact remains that India needs a
lot of infrastructure and the demand will
continue to rise. We are emphasizing on
building a team of professionals which
will continue to serve Indian clients as
we take on large complex
projects. This being an
election year, it is
not uncommon for
to be stalled
which is not
unique to India
but happens all
over the world.
When we look at
the long haul, we
see India as a
very strong and robust market.
What kind of challenges are you
facing in coal and power sector in
India given the fuel supply issues
being faced at present?
In the present scenario our focus has
shifted from executing projects to
helping our clients take decisions.
For example, we have seen clients
being concerned over change in fuel
supply for their projects and how it
will impact their plans. Once there is
clarity in the client’s mind about the
impact of these external conditions,
the focus will come back on taking
decisions and moving ahead on project
execution. One area which we feel is
becoming important globally is asset
management. New standards are being
developed, smart data analytics are
being created across the world and we
have lot of expertise to offer in this
field. We find that the Indian market is
yet to catch up in this area
What kind of operations do you
have in India?
We are a 100 year old company,
delivering solutions for infrastructure
projects. We operate in the segments of
power, oil and gas, water and telecom.
Globally, we have 10,000 employees
and a turnover of $12.5 billion. In India
we are focused on two areas -- power
and oil and gas. Within power, we have
expertise in all types of technologies,
including nuclear, but we have not
introduced that in India. We also have
an expertise in power transmission
Another area which is important
for us is oil and gas. We are active in
LNG terminals and plants and have
a proprietary technology in sulphur
recovery. We are also experts in gas
processing but are not pursuing that in
India as of now.
How do you assist clients in
execution of projects from concept to commissioning?
We do a lot of work in EPC in
key projects. When a project is
conceptualized, it requires market
assessment, studies to figure out the
right scale of the project, its location,
technology required, costing and so on.
We engage with our clients in active
decision making. Once a decision is
taken to implement the project, comes
the development stage where you
have to apply for permits, licences,
conceptual designs, figure our right
specifications, select EPC contractor
and bid for evaluation. We assist in this
development phase. The third phase is
execution i.e. building a facility. We
do engineering design, buy equipment,
give guarantees on the equipment,
construct the equipment and then
commission and start the facility. For
the last phase, when the facility is
on-stream and operational, we have a
robust portfolio of asset management.
You are both into power
generation and LNG segment.
Today, there is a slowdown in the
power sector due to fuel supply
issues, while the LNG business is
booming. How has this impacted
your business portfolio?
We still have a balanced portfolio
in terms of clients, prospects and
professional resources, spread across
power, oil and gas. In fact our Indian
operations support our global projects.
We are still executing some power
projects which were initiated in 2008 and
2009 and are now nearing completion.
With respect to LNG, we are actively
looking at LNG terminals that the
government is planning to develop, be it
on the east coast like the ones at Ennore
(of IOC) or Gangavaram (of PLL).
What are your LNG plans in India?
The LNG segment has two aspects —
India and global. The trend that we have seen is that because of the shale
gas boom in the US, producers of shale
gas want to export gas. For that they
have to convert natural gas into liquid
through liquefaction process and Black
& Veatch has a proven patented process
called Prico which we deploy in the
US to convert gas into liquid and then
the gas is shipped into countries like
Japan or India where we then get into
re-gasification. So we are at both ends
of the LNG spectrum. We are working
with clients in the USA who want to
export gas and looking at clients in
India such as IOCL who are looking to
re-gasify liquid into gas.
Do you have plans to participate in
LNG terminals in India?
An LNG terminal has several
components. First is the tankage part
where you store liquid LNG which
comes from the ships. We are not very
active in this segment. But once the LNG
is in the tanks, it needs to be converted
back into gas. That’s where we are quite
active in re-gasification components.
India has only seen land-based
terminals so far. We have expertise
in floating LNG. In this process, the
re-gasification happens offshore i.e. on
the ship. We are actually involved in a
major project for floating LNG right now
where the entire project is being built on
a ship and the ship will be positioned in
North America where the gas sources are.
So we are executing projects in floating
LNG and if India takes the next step of
considering floating LNG terminals, then
Black & Veatch would be interested in
looking at those prospects here. We are
actively looking at IOCL and plan to bid
for their upcoming projects.
You are yet to enter the nuclear
energy segment in India. What are
the reasons behind that?
Our nuclear offering is niche at this
point and we are limiting it to a few
geographies. We will certainly look at the
Indian market for nuclear energy but at
an appropriate time. At present our focus
is on conventional, renewable power and
oil and gas. We feel that we are not yet
ready at this time to put our offering in
the nuclear power sector.
Do you have any plans to venture
into pipeline projects?
Not immediately at this point in time. We
want to focus more on power generation
with gas plants at the moment. The
pipeline and transportation part will come
only after we finish with the generation
part and execute few projects.
What was your reaction
to the recently announced
It was a mixed bag. Not surprisingly,
power targets were missed because of
scarcity issues. But the country’s power
capacity has doubled in the past 10
years and it will continue to increase
till 2030. So that is a big positive. One
announcement which has stood out in
the interim budget is with respect to
ultra mega solar power projects, which
is quite encouraging. The reduction
in excise duty is a positive; it would
hopefully stimulate the economy.
We do procurement globally for our
power equipment and with this change,
Indian equipment will become much
more competitive for projects in
India and abroad. We certainly have
plans to procure a good amount of
equipment in India.