Special Correspondent

Willing to offer equity stake, says Chairman

NEW DELHI: Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora on Thursday announced that Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) had discovered natural gas in the Krishna-Godavari basin off the Andhra Pradesh coast and the Mahanadi basin off the Orissa coast.

In a related development, Sri Lanka offered one oil exploration block in Mannar near Cauvery basin to ONGC. Sri Lanka had eight exploration blocks in its kitty, out of which it had offered one to India and China one earch in Mannar (in the northwest coast) and was planning to allocate the balance six blocks in three months, Sri Lankan Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Minister, A. H. M. Fowzie told newsmen on the sidelines of Petrotech-2007 here.

Mr. Deora said the natural gas find in the KG basin posed "technological challenges'' and ONGC was looking for a strategic partner. "I can confirm a huge gas find in ultra deep water in the KG basin and a commercial discovery in the Mahanadi basin. We are 90 per cent sure that gas has been found. I was to make an announcement of the discovery at the inauguration of this conference but since testing has not been done, I refrained from going public,'' he remarked.

ONGC Chairman R. S. Sharma said the KG basin well in water depth of 2,840 metres was still to reach its target depth but initial testing in the presence of Directorate General of Hydrocarbons officials confirmed the presence of natural gas.

Target depth

"The well has reached a depth of 6,600 metres and the target depth of 7,000 metres will be reached in the next two weeks. ONGC will drill four-five more appraisal wells before it can announce the size of the discovery and the reserves it holds,'' he added.

Mr. Sharma said production from such deep water was a technological challenge and "we are in talks with some multinational companies for a strategic tie up. ONGC was willing to offer the partner equity stake in the block. On Mahanadi gas find, he said the gas discovery was of commercial nature but an estimate of the reserve could be made only after a few more wells are drilled.

Saudi Arabia plan

Saudi Arabia has drawn up a comprehensive long term investment and expansion programme that will enable it to step up production capacity to a whopping 12.5 million barrels a day by 2009 from the present three million barrels a day, Saudi Arabian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Ibrahim Al-Niami told the Petrotech 2007 conference on Thursday. "We have drawn up concrete investment plans of more than $80 billion for capital projects,'' he said.

Mr. Al Niami indicated that some joint venture projects and investments between India and Saudi Arabia were in the offing. He invited Indian engineering and construction firms to bid for the many new projects available in the petroleum, natural gas, petrochemicals and mineral sectors.