ONGC set to double crude production in Assam

September 23rd, 2008 - 1:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Sep 23 (IANS) India’s premier exploration firm, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Tuesday announced a Rs.23 billion investment plan to boost crude oil output from oilfields in Assam.”The prime objective of the Assam Renewal project is to enhance operational efficiency besides revamping of pipelines, modernization of existing equipment and installation facilities to boost production of crude,” R.S. Sharma, ONGC chairman-cum-managing director, told journalists here.

ONGC also projected Assam’s oil production to double in the next couple of years from the current levels of 1.2 million metric tonnes annually.

“We are going for multi-pronged strategies by upgrading technologies and hope to double our production in Assam in the near future,” Sharma said.

Assam has over 1.3 billion tonnes of crude oil and 156 billion cubic metres of natural gas reserves of which about an estimated 58 percent is yet to be explored. India produces about 30 million tonnes of crude oil annually, with Assam accounting for about five million tonnes of the total. Apart from ONGC, Oil India Ltd (OIL) is the other major exploration firm operating in the northeastern state.

Another senior ONGC official said only half of over 300 oil wells the company has in Assam were functioning. “A major chunk of investments we made in Assam would be utilised to import latest technology to revive the dry and ageing wells,” the official said.

ONGC is India’s largest company by market capitalisation with oil and gas exploration and production operations throughout India and in Russia, Vietnam and Sudan among other countries. But frequent strikes and protests in Assam has adversely impacted production of crude oil, besides incurring heavy financial losses for the oil giant.

“For every 100 hour of shutdown due to strikes and protests, the company loses a whopping Rs.240 million, besides impacting the overall production of oil and gas,” Sharma said. Several local groups and separatist guerrilla outfits in the region from time to time trouble the ONGC by serving huge extortion notices and calling for strikes and shutdowns.

“Pressure groups often disrupt production work by calling strikes for various demands ranging from local employment to funds for community development, while militant groups slap extortion notices on us creating a sense of fear and panic,” an ONGC official said requesting anonymity.

“There have been several explosions triggered by militant groups in Assam on oil pipelines leading to heavy losses and affecting production,” the official said.

The ONGC was earlier forced to shut down exploration works in adjoining Nagaland after tribal guerrillas in the state demanded money. It had recently begun operations again in Nagaland after a long gap.

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