State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) on Tuesday signed contracts for seven oil and gas blocks it had won in the latest bid round, which did not witness active participation by the private sector. Oil India Ltd signed up for the remaining four blocks awarded under the fifth bid round of Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OLAP).
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said with the latest bid round, the government has in the last four years allotted 1.56 lakh sq km of acreage for locating and producing oil and gas. This is a significant rise from the 90,000 sq km of area awarded in nine rounds of New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) and pre-NELP awards in the previous two decades.
The government had offered 11 blocks for exploration and production of oil and gas in OLAP-V. (Open Acreage Licensing Policy). A total of 12 bids, including seven bids by ONGC and four by OIL, were received for the 11 blocks on offer at the close of bidding on June 30. Invenire Petrodyne Ltd was the only private bidder for one block, while ONGC was the sole bidder for six blocks, OIL was the lone bidder in all the four blocks it bid for.
ONGC won all six blocks where it was the sole bidder and also the one block where Invenire Petrodyne had bid, thus ousting the only private bidder from the process. Prior to OALP-V, the government had opened up 94 blocks in four OALP bid rounds since 2017. These 94 blocks cover an exploratory area of about 1,36,790 sq km over 16 Indian sedimentary basins. In the latest bid round, about 19,800 sq km of the area was offered for bidding, Pradhan said. OALP-V was launched with the intention to “generate immediate exploration work commitment of around USD 400-450 million”.
Bureaucracy and multiple permissions needed for locating and producing oil and gas have in the past led to several slippages in the committed timelines and undermined explorers to participate in the oil search. Pradhan, however, wanted explorers to expedite the hunt for oil and gas so as to make the nation self-reliant in energy. “You have to exponentially speed up,” he said.
“Tell us, if you need more help,” Pradhan said asking explorers to give suggestions on improving the regulatory environment. Under OALP, companies are allowed to specifically select areas they want to explore oil and gas in. Companies can put in an expression of interest (EoI) for any area throughout the year, but such interests are accumulated thrice in a year. The areas shaped are then put on auction.