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GAIL to begin drilling in Bengal basin in Oct

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Mr Proshanto Banerjee, Chairman and Managing Director of GAIL (India) Ltd.
Mr Proshanto Banerjee, Chairman and Managing Director of GAIL (India) Ltd.

Richa Mishra

New Delhi, Aug. 28

GAIL (India) Ltd, which plans to invest approximately Rs 600 crore in exploration and production (E&P) activities over the next three years, is all geared up to drill its first offshore well in October, Mr Proshanto Banerjee, Chairman and Managing Director, GAIL, said.

"GAIL-Gazprom consortium is ready to begin drilling the first well in block-26 in Bengal basin. The consortium has already invested $13 million and expects to invest another $30 million for the first well. The drilling rig for the first well has been finalised and drilling is expected to begin in the second week of October 2005. The drilling activities will continue till the end of November 2005," Mr Banerjee told Business Line.

The GAIL-Gazprom (a Russian joint stock company) consortium was awarded exploration block - 26 in the Bengal basin as part of the first bidding round under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) in 2000. GAIL has a 50 per cent equity participation in the block with Gazprom as the operator. The block is located around 100 km south-east from the Haldia port in West Bengal.

Environmental clearance has been obtained from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoE&F) and Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) for carrying out drilling activities. The consortium has assured the authorities that all possible measures, specified by the MoE&F, would be taken to ensure that there is no environmental damage due to drilling activities, the GAIL Chairman said.

Moreover, the consortium is gearing up to drill a second well for which another drilling rig is being finalised. The consortium has already completed geological and geophysical survey of the block, Mr Banerjee added.

Regarding the process for identifying the locations for drilling, he said, "the consortium has obtained an independent interpretation of survey data from a reputed international consultant to identify the locations for drilling. The project management team for drilling has been put in place."

Special care is being taken to handle emergencies and oil spills during drilling operations, Mr Banerjee said. "The entire operations will be coordinated from Haldia, which is the closest port from the drilling location. The Haldia port will serve as a base for supply of all materials for drilling and as a communication base to the drilling rig," he stated.

Talking about the oil struck in the Cambay basin, he said, the commercialisation of the block was expected soon. As of now, production was being planned with an estimated recoverable reserve of 3.5 million barrels, for 10 years, Mr Banerjee said. GAIL along with Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation has struck oil in the Cambay basin block.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 29, 2005)
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