The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), on Thursday, cleared five more oil and gas blocks that had been put on offer under the NELP IX round of bidding. The major winners included U.K.'s BG Exploration & Production and BHP Billiton Petroleum (International Exploration) of Australia.

During the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) IX round held in 2010, the government had offered 34 areas for exploration and production of oil and gas. Bids for 33 were received at the close of bidding on March 28 last year. Of these, the CCEA in March awarded 16 blocks to firms such as ONGC while bids for ten blocks were rejected due to bidders offering lesser than expected profit petroleum.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Jaipal Reddy said the CEEA was to consider award of six onland and two offshore blocks but only five blocks were approved.

The Mumbai basin deep sea block MB-DWN-2010/1 was awarded to the consortium of BG Exploration & Production and BHP Billiton Petroleum (International Exploration) of Australia.

The BG-BHP combine beat the consortia of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Oil India Ltd. (OIL) and GAIL India to the block. The shallow water block MB-OSN-2010/2 in the same basin is due to be awarded to a consortium of OIL, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petro Resources, which were the sole bidders.

Sources said the required clearance from the Ministry of Defence had been received for exploration in the two offshore blocks.

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