Transitioning to a greener and lower-carbon economy while pushing growth is tough for the world’s developing nations, caught in a “quagmire” to quickly industrialize and urbanize, but often with adverse environmental impacts, says S. N. Subrahmanyan, a civil engineer and, since 2017, CEO of Mumbai-based engineer-contractor Larsen & Toubro Ltd.
With the trend boosting need for environmental services, the firm debuts at No. 3 on this year’s Top 200—reporting $4.83 billion in that revenue in its latest financial year, 30% of its corporate total. The firm says about 35% of the environmental revenue is from work mostly in renewable energ, and also air quality, and 32% in water infrastructure.
New government policies are driving market opportunity in India. With UN clean water and sanitation goals adopted, the firm is “seeing good traction and significant opportunities in the water and wastewater sector,” he says. Water stress has pushed major coastal cities to boost sources. L&T completed a 100-million-liter-per-day desalination plant in Gujarat and likely will do others.
EPC water projects are risky due to “numerous stakeholders and uncertainties in execution,” he says, but “L&T tries to balance the risk-return trade-off.” The firm also has a sector “foothold” in the Middle East, and recent work in Africa, with South Asia on its radar, the CEO says.
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L&T still reports significant revenue from traditional fossil-fuel arenas, winning last year an EPC contract of undisclosed value, but described as “significant,” for one of the world’s largest oil and gas supply bases in Saudi Arabia. This month it announced three “large” offshore oil EPC awards under a long-time contract with an undisclosed Saudi client, which sector media named as Saudi Aramco. Ranked at No. 25 on ENR’s Top Global Contractors latest list, L&T reported 34% of $13.5 billion in 2020 construction revenue in industrial and oil and gas.
But Subrahmanyan also notes India’s targets by 2030 to raise non-fossil energy capacity, now at 168 GW, to 500 GW, including more solar projects (above), and to cut projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tons.
Emerging areas for L&T include construction of offshore wind, EV-charging and carbon-capture facilities. “Aggressive targets are driving the steady execution of these projects,” he says.
L&T now is building a 300-MW solar power plant in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and was awarded the EPC contract for the global-scale 1.5-GW Sudair solar project in Riyadh. it also bid but won’t confirm reports of a contract to build solar, wind and battery plants for the planned Saudi green hydrogen complex in NEOM city.
The firm has launched an electrolyzer manufacturing business and will build a green hydrogen pilot plant in India. “We have a unique opportunity to play a significant role to accelerate the ecosystem around green hydrogen,” says Subrahmanyan.