India joins the race to clean up Gulf War oil spills

April 8th, 2009 - 2:32 pm ICT by IANS  

By Manish Chand
Kuwait, April 8 (IANS) Eighteen years after the first Gulf War, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has joined the race for a $3-billion contract to clean up oil spills caused by the Iraq’s invasion of the Gulf emirate in 1991.

ONGC has formed a joint venture company with the New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) to bid for this UN-backed project.

Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari’s three-day visit to Kuwait, that ended Wednesday, has given a big boost to ONGC’s plan to make a foray into this area.

The issue figured in discussions between Ansari and Amir Of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Tuesday, Indian officials privy to the meeting told IANS.

It was also discussed separately in a meeting between Ansari and Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. Petroleum Secretary R.S. Pandey also took up the proposed project with his Kuwaiti counterpart.

The project has got a big political push with the vice-president’s visit, officials said.

The Kuwait government has floated a global tender for this project that will cleanse Iraqi soil from toxic spillovers from the 1991 war. Kuwaiti oil wells were set ablaze by Iraqi invaders and oil-related installations were damaged.

Some American companies are also eyeing this lucrative UN-backed project. But India’s top selling point is its environment-friendly technology.

ONGC-Teri Biotech Ltd (OTBL), as the Indian joint venture is called, plans to use Oilzapper technology, which uses a bacteria to clean the soil corroded by oil spills. OTBL has pioneered cleaning technologies - bioremediation and anti-paraffin degrading bacterial (PDB) consortium.

Bio-remediation is widely seen as a technological breakthrough in hazardous waste management to protect the environment from the adverse impact of toxic and hazardous contaminants.

Besides attracting Kuwaiti investment in India’s burgeoning infrastructure sector, enhancing cooperation in petrochemical sector between India and Kuwait topped discussions between the two countries during the vice-president’s visit.

In an address to Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tuesday, Ansari held out fertiliser production as a promising opportunity for Kuwaiti businessmen and investors to make handsome profits in these “troubled” recessionary times.

Kuwait, home to 580,000 Indians, accounts for 12 percent of India’s crude oil imports which mostly come from the Gulf region.

The two sides also signed three agreements to encourage exchange of scholars, scientists, researchers and cultural figures and discussed a range of issues to take their multi-faceted relationship forward.

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