Anil Sasi

New Delhi, May 27

THE Rs 25,000-crore National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is likely to bid for three onshore gas blocks on offer for exploration under the fifth round of the New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP).

According to Government sources, the utility is looking at bidding for a block each in the western, southern and the north-eastern regions.

The country's largest power utility's move to diversify into gas exploration is in line with its strategy to attempt backward linkage into the fuel supply chain for fuelling its gas-based stations, officials said. NTPC has already kicked-off its foray into the coal mining sector to ensure fuel linkages for its coal-fired stations and has been awarded a coal mining block for captive consumption.

Currently, the company operates 13 coal-fired and seven gas-fired power stations. The foray into exploration is expected to provide a big push to its gas-based capacity expansion plans, officials said. During the Eleventh Plan period, it plans to add close to 7,000 MW of gas-based capacity.

Bidding for the 20 oil and gas blocks under the NELP-V round is expected to close on May 31. The 20 blocks on offer comprise six deep-water, two shallow-water and 12 on-land blocks covering a sedimentary area of around 1,09,210 sq km. Out of the 20 blocks, 12 fall in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, while eight were new exploration blocks.

Besides the proposed foray to tap domestic natural gas, NTPC has been looking at LNG as a fuel option and had recently announced plans to import LNG for its 1,950-MW Kayamkulam expansion project.

The company has also concluded an internal survey to locate oil wells in Oman, Qatar, Nigeria, Iran and Russia. Since NTPC does not have in-house LNG extraction expertise, the company is planning a technology partnership with an international player with the requisite expertise.

NTPC has a capacity of 21,435MW, representing approximately 19 per cent of the total capacity in the country, and accounts for over 27 per cent of the country's power generation. Though NTPC has predominantly been a thermal power generator, it has now entered new business areas for ensuring vertical as well as horizontal linkages across the value chain in the sector.

Apart from a foray into hydroelectric generation, the company has ventured into allied areas of business such as power trading and distribution through two subsidiary companies. The company is also in talks with Nuclear Power Corporation India Ltd for a possible foray into nuclear power generation.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 28, 2005)
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