Ministry expects $8-10 b investment in all phases; $2 b in first phase

Our Bureau

New Delhi, Sept 15

Aggressive promotion, a transparent policy and success in the Krishna Godavari Basin and Rajasthan have played a vital role in attracting 165 bids for the sixth round of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP), which offers 55 exploration & production blocks.

Global energy giants British Petroleum, British Gas, Italy's ENI, Petronas and French multinational TOTAL, apart from domestic players, were among the bidders for oil and gas exploration rights in the country's largest ever licensing round covering an area of 3.52 lakh sq km, bids for which closed today. Three blocks, however, did not receive any bids.

`Highest number of bids'

"We received 165 bids at the close today. This is the highest ever received for 52 blocks under NELP VI. In all, 66 companies - 35 foreign and 31 Indian - bid either on their own or as consortia. Among the foreign companies, about 20 were new ones," said Mr V.K. Sibal, Director-General of Hydrocarbons (DGH).

While 39 blocks attracted multiple bids, 13 received single bids. During this round, 310 data packages amounting to Rs 78.60 crore were sold, against the previous best sale of Rs 22.75 crore during NELP-V.

"The response is very good. We offered the highest ever acreage in this round. India has political stability and there is transparency in our system. The highest number of bids, the large number of companies participating tells the success story of India's hydrocarbon sector," said Mr Sibal.

He added that going by conservative estimates of 20-25 per cent success ratio in the blocks, expected investment could be $8-10 billion in all the three exploration phases.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is expecting at least $2 billion of committed investment in the first phase of exploration.

However, some big names such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Conoco Philips of the US were missing in the latest round of bidding.

While ExxonMobil felt that it needed to do more work to convince its board, Conoco Philips underwent a management change.

Of the total 55 blocks put on auction, three deepwater blocks - two in Kerala/Konkan region and one in the Andamans - have not received any bids.

According to Mr Sibal, these were tough blocks. ONGC bid for the maximum number of 45 blocks, mainly as a consortium.

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) went solo to bid for 20 blocks, and in partnership with Oil India Ltd (OIL) for one block.

Reliance Natural Resources Ltd tied up with Naftogaz of Ukraine and PGNIG of Poland for 12 blocks.

Mr Anil Razdan, Additional Secretary in the Ministry, said that the evaluation of the bids would be undertaken; the blocks are likely to be awarded by November 15 and contracts expected to be signed by January 2007.

Other companies

Other companies which bid include Essar, HPCL, BPCL, OIL, Cairn Energy, Assam Co Ltd, Adani Port Infrastructure Ltd, Beach Petroleum, Canoro Resources of Canada, EOG Resources, Geoglobal Resources, Indian Oil Corp, Jubilant Oil and Gas, Joshi Technology, M3nergy Berhad, Pan Orient, Petrogas, Prize Petroleum, Premier Oil of the UK, Santos International, Tap Oil, Valdel Oil and Gas Pvt Ltd and Zakros Holdings Ltd.

The 25 onland blocks offered are in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

Of the 24 deep-sea blocks, 20 are off the east coast, three off the west coast and one lies in Andaman offshore.

Four of the shallow water blocks are in the western offshore and the remaining two off the east coast.

Related Stories:
ONGC may bid for 50 blocks in NELP VI
ONGC, Shell yet to agree on bid strategy for NELP-VI
IOC to rope in foreign partners for exploration under NELP-VI

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 16, 2006)
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