Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) has formed a joint working group (JWG), with officials from E&P sector, national oil companies and Government, in a bid to enhance oil and gas production as well as to attract investments.

Speaking at the first edition of Urja Varta 2024 on Thursday, Oil Minister H S Puri said, “I am glad to announce the formation of a JWG, comprising representatives from private E&P operators, the National Oil Companies, MoPNG, and Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH).”

“It will examine issues relating to the ease of doing business in exploration and production (E&P), adequacy of policies and procedures, and the need for their revision. It will submit its recommendations within eight weeks,” he added.

Untapped potential

The Minister emphasised that the E&P sector is integral in the country’s journey towards energy self-sufficiency, which is critical for sustained economic growth. E&P offers investment opportunities worth $100 billion by 2030.

“Despite our substantial progress, much of our exploration and production potential still lies untapped within India’s 26 sedimentary basins. I find it strange that India is so heavily reliant on oil imports despite the abundant geological resources available to us,” he added.

Nestled within the country’s sedimentary basins is around 651.8 million tonnes (MT) of crude oil and 1138.6 billion cubic meters (BCM) of natural gas

“Only 10 per cent of our sedimentary basin area is under exploration today. After the award of blocks under the forthcoming OALP Rounds, it will increase to 16 per cent by end-2024. While this is progress, it is not enough. The focus of our exploratory endeavours must pivot towards discovering ‘Yet to Find’ resources,” Puri said.

Enhancing potential

The Oil Minister of world’s third-largest crude oil and fourth-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) importer emphasised that the Government is doing its part to catalyse investments in E&P.

“We intend to increase India’s exploration acreage to 1 million sq km by 2030. ‘No- Go’ areas in India’s EEZ have been reduced by almost 99 per cent. The Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) has accelerated production growth. Through the first 8 bid rounds, a total of 144 blocks covering approximately 244,007 sq km have been awarded,” he added.

The recently announced OALP IX round offers an area of approximately 136,596 sq km spread over 8 sedimentary basins, with the vision of expanding the nation’s footprint in offshore exploration.

“Since its inception in 2015, the Discovered Small Field (DSF) Policy has garnered investments of around $2 billion and brought in 29 new players in the field. The recent Special DSF Bid Round presents fresh opportunities in Mumbai Offshore and West Bengal,” Puri informed the audience.

The opening up of the erstwhile no-go areas has paved the way for exploration activities in previously restricted zones, fostering investments, notably in regions such as the Andamans.

“The Government is spending heavily on promoting scientific data-driven exploration. An investment of ₹7,500 crore is going into the acquisition of new seismic data, including that of the EEZ, financing stratigraphic wells, and acquiring aerial survey data for difficult terrains,” he said.

“We now have geo-scientific data for the Kerala–Konkan basin and the Mumbai offshore basin on the West coast, and the Mahanadi and the Andaman basins on the East coast,” Puri added.

The DGH is also upgrading the national data repository to a cloud-based NDR, which will enable instant dissemination of seismic, well and production data. The work order will be placed in 1 month.