Public sector oil giant ONGC is becoming more collaborative in its exploration and production activities. To harness the benefits of international expertise, risk sharing, and technology and skill enhancement, ONGC has entered into agreements with names like ExxonMobil, Chevron, TotalEnergies, Equinor and Shell.

In an interview with BusinessLine, Sushma Rawat, the first woman Director (Exploration) of ONGC, said, “Our focus for 2023 is clear... to provide a fillip to exploration and achieve the government’s mandate of reducing import dependency. Three years’ action [plan], from 2022-23 to 2024-25, has been adopted. The Exploration Portfolio Management Board (EPMB) at its recent meeting, for 2023, has recommended 70 locations for release targeting close to 150 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mmtoe) of yet-to-find (YTF) resources with a proposed investment of ₹2,700 crore. Also, some of the released locations will be targeted for reserve upgradation as per ONGC’s commitment towards increasing production and to bring the Bengal Basin to Category-I status.”

Category-I basins are those which have reserves and are already producing; category-II basins have contingent resources pending commercial production; and category-III basins have prospective resources awaiting discovery.

On the status of ONGC’s agreements with international giants, she said the agreement with ExxonMobil was inked on August 17, 2022, for collaboration in deepwater exploration in the KG-Cauvery and Kutch offshore basins. The technical discussions have taken place between the exploration teams and a joint examination is underway for the Kutch basin.

The Chevron MoU is for potential collaboration in the Tripura fold belt, Bengal offshore as well as KG-Cauvery; a confidentiality agreement has been signed with TotalEnergies, France, for Andaman & Mahanadi offshore. An MoU has been signed with Equinor, Norway, for various works including upstream, mid-stream, marketing, renewables (offshore wind), and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS). An MoU with Shell is towards CCUS studies, focusing on carbon dioxide storage and enhanced oil recovery screening for key basins in India, including depleted oil and gas fields and saline aquifers.

On the action plan to achieve the target, she said, “ONGC has in place a rapid acreage expansion plan, which is an accelerated survey plan: Two-fold increase in quantum of 3D seismic data acquisition; to probe significant YTF resources by 2025; enhancing data coverage through 2D and 3D seismic surveys in deepwater and other promising areas, and drilling close to 350 wells to probe YTF potential; increasing CAPEX by 150 per cent for exploration; and diversifying the data coverage through government-funded project in three sectors, namely, West Coast, East Coast and Andaman offshore.”

Significant YTF is locked in the frontiers of our sedimentary basins and deepwaters, she added.

“Going forward, for next few years our strategy would be based on maintenance of current level of production... quick monetisation of unmonetised discoveries. Further, we need to achieve production growth by tapping into high pressure-high temperature, deepwater and ultra-deepwater resources,” she said.

“Future thrust will concentrate around improving exploration efficiency processes and workflows, re-exploration in mature basin where, I believe, there can be a basin within basin, fast-tracking of drilling in new prospective areas of category-II basins and consolidation of new finds with faster monetisation, maximising recovery, increasing production through upgradation of lower category reserves and conversion of YTF resources to producible volumes, and conversion of 15 per cent of undiscovered into discovered in-place (around 4 billion tonnes).

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On the successes achieved, she said recent exploration successes in Bengal and Vindhyan basins have been encouraging.“We have made second discovery at Bengal Basin. In Vindhyan basin too, ONGC [has had] commercial success in the Hatta. We are again venturing into high-risk, high-gain deep-/ultra-deepwater exploration in east and west coast of India. For that, ONGC has already acquired a few deep-/ultra-deepwater exploration acreages under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy in Cauvery basin, Andaman basin and Mahanadi basin. More new deep-/ultra-deepwater areas (prospective) have been identified in Kerala-Konkan basin, Saurashtra and Mumbai offshore. Our deepwater exploration is likely to see large capex allocation. So, in a nutshell, ONGC’s deep-/ultra-deepwater exploration is very much in the forefront and will intensify in the years to come,” she said.