Reliance Industries Ltd. expects prices of natural gas in India to rise again in October but wants government-dictated caps to go, in a bid to align domestic rates with global energy prices.
The conglomerate, controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, expects the price cap for its KG-D6 gas sales to rise over the current $9.92 per million British thermal units. Sanjay Roy, senior vice-president for exploration and production, said in an investor call following the announcement of the firm's quarterly earnings on Friday.
After remaining a loss-making provision for several quarters, Reliance's gas exploration business has begun reaping rewards of a global surge in energy prices that have already pushed the rates to a record high.
The government sets gas prices every six months based on international rates.
The price of gas from old or regulated fields was more than doubled to a record $6.1 per mmBtu from April 1, and that for difficult fields like those lying in deepsea to $9.92 per mmBtu.
Rates are due for a revision in October. It is anticipated that the price of gas from old fields of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) will be hiked to about $9 per mmBtu and the cap for difficult fields will rise to double digits.
Reliance produced about 19 million standard cubic meters per day of gas from its newer fields in the eastern offshore KG-D6 block in the April-June quarter. KG-D6 block lies in deepsea and so gets a price equivalent to that for difficult fields.
"Price ceiling for KGD6 (R-Cluster/Sats) revised to $9.92 per mmBtu for H1FY23 (April-September 2022) which is expected to rise further for H2FY23 (October 2022 to March 2023)," Mr. Roy said.
But this rate remains disconnected with global prices.
"We do see that the domestic price ceiling remains disconnected, whether the prices are elevated or when prices fall. And you know we are continuing our advocacy for removal of ceiling prices. Overall, we expect higher gas price realizations in FY23 and in the quarters to come," he said.
Reliance got a price of $22.48 per mmBtu for 0.7 mmscmd of gas it produces from coal seams (CBM) from blocks in Madhya Pradesh. There is no cap on CBM gas price.
Higher gas prices propelled a 80.5% rise in revenue from the business to ₹3,625 crore during April-June and a 76% jump in EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) to ₹2,737 crore.
Mr. Roy said the company is expecting the MJ field in the KG-D6 block to be on stream by the third quarter of this fiscal year, which will help take the output from the block to about 30 mmscmd.
"Overall, the outlook is, once the MJ field is commissioned, we should be progressively moving towards delivering more than a billion cubic feet per day (30 mmscmd) by FY24 (April 2023 to March 2024)," he said.
On the elevated global gas prices, he said the shift in European demand from Russian gas to LNG and some supply destruction are driving prices. Current prices of benchmark JKM are ruling at about ₹38 per mmBtu.
"So, prices continue to remain elevated and are expected to, given the challenges that are there today," he said.
The Indian gas market outlook, he said, remains robust, with the availability of domestic gas being one of the reasons.
"Because domestic gas particularly like in KG-D6, where there is a price ceiling and that is much in demand as compared to the market prices that are currently prevailing at these times," he said.
He further noted, "Now, in terms of price ceiling, as you all are aware and I mentioned earlier, the price must move up and we will see higher realizations. It is expected that, based on higher energy prices, this will go further up." Reliance and its partner bp plc of U.K. produce about 19 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd) of gas from two sets of new fields in the deepsea block KG-D6.
Reliance-bp is currently producing about 20% of India's total domestic production and MJ would help increase this to up to 30%.