India to offer 55 blocks for exploration of oil

New Delhi, February 1:

India will offer the largest single tranche of 55 exploration blocks, about half of them offshore, in the next round of bids to be invited on Februry 14 — covering a total area of 300,000 sq km.So for India has awarded 90 blocks for exploration under product sharing contracts in the four rounds since the launch of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) in 1999.

On offer this time are some ultra deep exploration blocks in line with Indian attempts to step up the pace of exploration to boost domestic oil and gas output that has shown a decline.

This has happened despite restructuring some of the ageing producing blocks.

“We are trying to open up the entire Krishna-Godavari Basin, which has yielded some promising finds, and the Konkan and Saurashtra offshore and offer more blocks in the Andaman region where some blocks have been awarded,” a petroleum ministry source said.

“Around half the 55 blocks in the fifth round of NELP are offshore while the others are

onshore and shallow water blocks. Besides being the largest number of blocks to be offered for bidding, they would also cover the largest area for exploration — 300,000 sq km,” the source said.

Ahead of announcing the blocks on offer, a team led by Petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan and director general of Hydrocarbons V K Sibal are on a tour to woo global energy majors as India looks to acquire more sophisticated technology to help improve indigenous production.

“We are giving presentations to top executives of global exploration and technology sound companies to seek their participation in India, particularly in the deep sea area,” Sibal said.

In the last four years, private and joint venture companies have made 32 significant hydrocarbon discoveries, both in the NELP and pre-NELP blocks.

These finds were made in five major areas: Mahanadi - NEC offshore, Krishna-Godavari offshore, Gulf of Cambay, onland Rajasthan and Cambay Basins. These discoveries have perked up interest in Indian exploration activities. Top companies like BP, Cairn Energy, Premier Oil and Shell have invited the team to make presentations in energy hubs such as London and Edinburgh.

During the three-week long pre-NELP roadshow, the official team hopes to have interaction with over 50 leading companies with competence in exploration. The team is slated to return on February 10 after visiting Houston.

“We are keen to see that best knowledge and technology comes to India. We are offering technical clarification on our exploration blocks to top executives during individual presentations,” Sibal said.

Dependent on imports for over 76 per cent of its crude requirement, India for the first time is planning to venture into exploration of ultra deep-sea basin at depths of 1,500 km -3,000 km.

With global prices scaling over $65 a barrel amid apprehensions they could rise further, investment in domestic exploration activities backed by technology and overseas partners is seen as a sound economic move.