Pratim Ranjan Bose

Kolkata, Oct. 31

THE delay in drilling schedule notwithstanding, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation is smelling gas in the Bengal off-shore.

Though the testing results of its first exploratory well in the block are awaited, high level sources said ONGC was confident of striking gas in Bengal Basin after many unsuccessful attempts in the last few decades.

"We know there is gas, we only have to establish it," a senior ONGC official told Business Line. Apart from identifying sandbars, the company's contentions were further confirmed when they faced a very high pressure situation, which normally points to presence of gas.

High-pressure zone: "It is a very high pressure zone and our exploration team had been successful in saving the first well," the official said.

Having recently reached its targeted depth in the first well, the company is likely to get the results tested by end-November.

The size of the gas field is likely to be ascertained after drilling the second well.

Earlier, technical snags had delayed the drilling schedule for the first well leading to a delay in the schedule for drilling the remaining rest three wells.

The company had previously set a 180-day drilling schedule for the first well beginning March 22, 2005. Four wells will be drilled in two years at a total cost of Rs 500 crore.

Unique conditions: The work schedule had to factor in the very unique conditions of the sea in the delta.

A muddy sea-bed coupled with shallow water with high current is causing problems in identifying the locations for drilling the wells so much so that the company is yet to identify the location for the second well. "That this is a high pressure zone has compounded problems," the official said.

The ONGC stock closed at Rs 918.65 on Friday.

On Monday, it opened at Rs 925, rose to Rs 935.25 before closing at Rs 929.05.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 1, 2005)
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