44 blocks awarded under NELP VII

Special Correspondent

ONGC, BHP Billiton bag the maximum

Initiative will attract investment of $1.5 billion

Eighth edition of bid round by February 2009

NEW DELHI: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Thursday gave the go ahead for awarding 44 oil and gas exploration blocks with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) bagging the maximum along with its partners and first timers BHP Billiton-GVK Power. This initiative to reduce reliance on imported energy is expected to attract $1.5 billion investment.

The CCEA meeting held under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, did not award one deepwater block in the Mumbai basin to Cairn Energy India as it found the low bid by the sole bidder ‘detrimental’ to the Government’s interest in future in terms of profit petroleum. The Government had put on auction 45 oil and gas blocks under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) VII.

Production sharing

Briefing newsmen about the decision, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chauhan said the production sharing contracts (PSCs) for the 44 blocks would be signed in a month’s time after consultations with the Ministry of Law and working out all the legal formalities. A total of 57 blocks were offered in the auction but bids were received only for 45.

Petroleum Secretary R. S. Pandey said ONGC and partners bagged the maximum number of 20 oil and gas exploration blocks on offer in India’s biggest international bid round that closed on June 30. First timers BHP Billiton and GVK Power emerged winners in seven deep sea blocks. Reliance Industries forged an alliance with British Petroleum but could manage only one Krishna-Godavari basin block.

Mr. Pandey said the Government was considering bringing a next edition of bid round NELP-VIII in February 2009.

The Phase I investment commitment includes $321.15 million for exploration in deep sea, $598.255 million for exploration in shallow waters and $572.75 million for on land blocks. Besides seismic surveys, 141 exploration wells have been committed in the mandatory Phase I by the winning firms.

The CCEA went by the suggestions made by a Committee of Secretaries that recommended for award seven out of the 12 deep water blocks to the consortium of BHP Billiton and GVK Oil and Gas, the wholly-owned subsidiary of GVK Power. Two blocks went to ONGC-GSPC consortia, while one block each went to Reliance Industries-British Petroleum joint venture and ONGC-Oil India consortia.

Of the shallow water blocks, the consortia of ONGC, GSPC and HPCL-Mittal Energy bagged two Krishna Godavari basin blocks. ONGC-GSPC, Adani Welspun and Essar-Nobel were recommended winners for one shallow water offshore block each. ONGC and its partners were recommended for 11 on land blocks, while the consortia of OIL, HOEC and HPCL- Mittal Energy were recommended for a Rajasthan block. Indian Oil Corporation, Omkar Natural Resources, Vasundhara Resources, EnSearch Petroleum, GAIL and Quest Petroleum were other recommended winners for on land blocks.

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