Dispute over jurisdiction, granting of clearance, security considerations

India's oil exploration and production activities stand seriously hampered as various UPA-II wings continue to squabble over the issues of jurisdiction, grant of clearances and security considerations. This has put a question mark over the award of bids under the ninth round of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and earlier auctions also.

So serious has been the tussle among the Petroleum, Defence, Environment and Forests and Civil Aviation Ministries and the Space Department that the Prime Minister's Office is forced to intervene for, NELP IX is already running months behind schedule. The 19 blocks that have been held up were won in various bids by the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, the oil and gas company of Australia Santos, Geo Global, HPCL-Mittal combine, GSPC, Oil India Limited and ENI of Italy, Cairn India and BHP Biliton.

For instance, in case of the RJ-ONN-2003/1 block, where ONGC, Cairn and ENI are partners, the Environment Ministry has been unable to decide on the issue and has put a restriction on drilling. In RJ-ONN-2005/1, permission for seismic survey has not been granted by the Army. In KG-OSN-2005/1 and KG-OSN-2005/2, where ONGC, GSPC and HPCL and Mittal are partners, the Defence Ministry has not given contractors clearance for starting work on gathering 2D seismic data, and thus exploration is hampered.

In the NEC-DWN-2004/1 and NEC-DWN-2004/2 oil and gas blocks won by Santos of Australia, the operator has executed part of the Minimum Work Programme (MWP) and further work has been stopped due to an international maritime boundary limit dispute with Bangladesh. The operator has invoked force majeure and the work stands suspended. In PR-OSN-2004/1 in the Pennar basin, won by ONGC, TPL and Cairn India, the Space Department has put restriction on carrying out any work, including drilling in a major part of the block even after the operator carried out 2D and 3D seismic API. Similarly, in An-DWN-2003/2, where ENI, ONGC and GAIL are partners, the Department of Space has not given permission for drilling even as ENI finalised a location for drilling after 2D and 3D seismic API.

In the MB-DWN-2005/3/4/5/7/9, and MB-OSN-2009/3/6/7 blocks, owned by BHP Billiton and GVK, seismic work has been hampered by the Navy's objection to carrying out a survey in its area despite Defence Ministry clearance for the same.

In KG-OSN-2009/3, owned by CEIL and CIL, the Defence Ministry has not accorded clearance in the southern part of the block as it falls within a naval exercise area and the Suryalanka Range Danger Zone. Similarly, for MB-DWN-2009/1, owned by CEIL and CIL, defence clearance has not been accorded as the block is located in a naval exercise area. In DS-ONN-2004/1 and DS-ONN-2004/1, owned by Geo Global Resources, the operator has carried out field geology work and was to carry out airborne GM survey but DGCA has been sitting on the permission request since May 2010.

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