The Ministry of Defence has till date not issued clearance for at least four offshore areas

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry is gearing up to award oil and gas exploration blocks under the ninth round of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) by next month end.

According to Petroleum Secretary G. C. Chaturvedi, the Ministry will be able to award blocks over which there are no issues by the end of next month.

The government had offered 34 oil and gas exploration blocks under the ninth round of NELP. Of these, bids were received for 33 blocks by the last date on March 28.

The Ministry of Defence has till date not issued clearance for at least four offshore areas as they came in the way of the flight path of missiles tested from the Chandipur testing facility.

“We are preparing to go to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) with the blocks for which we have clearance for,'' Mr. Chaturvedi stated.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister S. Jaipal Reddy was confident that India's crude oil production would rise marginally by 1.3 per cent to 38.19 millions tonnes in 2011-12 as higher output from Cairn India's Rajasthan fields offsets decline in old and maturing fields. The production of natural gas for 2011-12 is projected at 51.68 billion cubic metres.

Under eight rounds of NELP, production sharing contracts have been signed for 235 blocks and an investment of $15.88 billion has been made by Indian and foreign companies.

Oil and Natural Gas Corporation had emerged winner in ten of the 33 oil and gas exploration blocks that received bids at the close of the ninth licensing round. ONGC, which had won almost two-thirds of the blocks offered in the previous NELP rounds, bid with firms like Oil India (OIL) for as many as 29 blocks and managed to get ten blocks.

After staying away from the previous auction in 2009 and bidding for just one area in the NELP-VII, Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries bid for two deep sea blocks in the Andaman Basin in the Bay of Bengal and four onshore blocks in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

It was declared provisional winner of the two deep-sea areas. The only other notable bidder was U.K.'s BG Group, which teamed up with BHP Billiton to bid successfully for a deep-water block in the Mumbai basin, off the West Coast.

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