India unveils largest auction of hydrocarbon assets (Lead)

April 9th, 2009 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) India Thursday announced the auctions for 80 more hydrocarbon assets in the country, including 10 for coal-bed methane, in the largest such exercise under its new policy on oil and gas exploration.
The 70 oil and gas blocks under round number eight of the new policy include 24 in deep waters, 28 in shallow waters and 18 on-land blocks, Petroleum Secretary R.S. Pandey told reporters here.

For coal-bed methane, this is the fourth round of auctions.

The bids from both domestic companies and multinational corporations will be accepted till Aug 10. So far, 203 blocks have been offered under seven rounds of what is technically called the new exploration licensing policy - NELP.

“After seven rounds, the area under exploration has increased more than four times to 48 percent of the Indian sedimentary basin area from just 11 percent before the implementation of the new policy,” Pandey said.

“During the XI Plan period (2007-08 to 2012-13), the area to be brought under exploration coverage is targeted at 80 percent of the total Indian sedimentary basin.”

Even though India is a net exporter of petroleum products, it imports some 70 percent of its crude oil needs. This is the reason why, Indian officials said, they were going ahead with the ambitious auction despite the global meltdown.

“Because of turmoil here or there, we can’t put on halt legitimate economic activity,” Pandey said. “It is a very important activity in which investors will take a long-term view. Exploration itself is a long-term process as it takes five-six years for any process to kick-start.”

Referring to the gas discovery in the Krishna-Godavari basin and the oil find in Rajasthan, Pandey said: “This is the time of immediate aftermath of two biggest discoveries in hydrocarbons field in India. Let us catch the imagination of the global investors during this period.”

The petroleum secretary said the government had held discussions with the industry lobby and “everybody was in favour of the auctions”.

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