It will be a good idea to build a pipeline from Russia to India

Written by Siddhartha P Saikia | Updated: May 7 2014, 17:15pm hrs
ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas subsidiary of the countrys flagship explorer ONGC, has reported a 15% increase in its oil and gas production in FY14. The government-owned company was aggressive in acquiring assets overseas and sealed deals worth billions of dollar in the last financial year. For instance, OVL acquired stake in ACG, which is the largest oil field in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian basin. It has also completed its stake buy in Rovuma Area I Block in Mozambique offshore. However, some of its projects are in countries hit by geo-political disturbances. The firm reported a profit after tax of R3,929 crore in FY13 on revenues of R18,029 crore. It is expected to declare FY14 results by end-May. OVL managing director SP Garg speaks to FEs Siddhartha P Saikia on key areas of importance to the companys growth. Excerpts:

How has been the production of OVL in FY14, considering that the company has suffered in the past from project shut down due to geo political disturbances

In 2013-14, production is 8.36 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe). It has increased from the preceding year, when the output was 7.26 mtoe. It was 8.75 mtoe a year before that, and had hit 9.45 mtoe in 2010-11. We are growing in terms of production. There are geo-political issues in some countries such as Syria and Sudan, which are still continuing.

Do you expect the environment to become conducive for carrying out operations in these disturbed nations

In fact, we had commenced production in South Sudan in April 2013. But again, there was disruption. So, from December 2013, the operations have to been shut down. So far as Syria is concerned, it is closed for more than two years.

Which countries have contributed to higher production in FY14

The incremental production has mainly come from Azerbaijan fields, acquired in March 2013. (OVL completes acquisition of 2.7213% PI in Azeri, Chirag and Deep Water portion of Guneshli or commonly known as ACG fields in Azerbaijan and 2.36% interest in Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline on April 1, 2013). In FY14, we realised the complete year production, and OVLs share was 0.9 million tonnes. Similarly, we acquired BC 10 in Brazil and the transaction was completed in December 2013. From there we got additional production of three months.

Which projects you think would contribute to your output in the next few years

In terms of potential, the Carabobo in Venezuela is very prospective. Right now it is at a nascent stage. The total production is around 8,000-9,000 barrels per day. The field has potential to produce 400,000 barrels per day. The development is slow because of some disturbances.

OVLs more than 35% production comes from Russia. What is the update on the Sakhalin project

At Sakhalin, the current production is about 165,000 barrels per day. We expect almost similar production in FY15. (Sakhalin-1 is a large oil and gas field in Far East offshore in Russia, spread over an area of approx. 1,146 sq km. OVL acquired 20% stake in the field in July 2001).

Sudan and South Sudan were contributing 8.2% of your production in FY13. What is your outlook now

As far as North Sudan production is concerned, it is normal. It is improving gradually. Production has increased marginally from 155,000 barrels per day to 160,000 barrels per day. But in South Sudan production is completely shut. It is a situation of inter-dependency between North and South Sudan.

Do you hope to re-start operations in Syria

We were thinking that situation would improve in Syria. More than a year back there was the signal that things would normalise any moment. But, now its looks that it may take some time. (OVL has stake in Al Furat and Block-XXIV in Syria. Due to geo-political development in gulf countries, European Union imposed oil trade sanctions on Syria in September, 2011. The EU sanctions were specifically targeted at crude oil exports, making vessel availability, associated insurance and payment extremely difficult. EU further imposed enhanced sanctions on Syria on 1st December 2011 and included AFPC and GPC in the list of sanctioned Syrian entities.)

In June, the petroleum ministries are likely to meet before the BRIC summit. What will be Indias interest in Russia in the hydrocarbon business

In fact, we are surrounded by countries that are rich in oil and gas. Russia is one such country, which has surplus oil and gas. It will be a very good idea to build a pipeline from Russia to India. May be, to start with, we can have a gas pipeline and then an oil pipeline. Earlier, we used to trade through the silk route. Russia has a strong network of pipelines throughout that country. The nearest port is nearly 2,000 km to connect through a pipeline from Indias west coast. It would take the same route as the Turkmenistan AfghanistanPakistanIndia pipeline (TAPI). These projects would take time. But, at least if we start planning now, it could be achieved. This would be in the economic interests of all the countries though which the pipeline would pass. TAPI is also under active discussion.

Is OVL interested in oil and gas blocks in Russia

There are some blocks in the Arctic, which are in the exploration stage. The Arctic region is considered very prolific. Right now, no one is producing from this region. We would not have the operational expertise in those type of acreages. So, what we are looking at is partnership with Russian companies and an international oil company with the right kind of technology to explore these areas.

Do you have reserve estimates of these blocks

Generally, in exploration blocks we look at how big is the structure. A big structure can hold more hydrocarbon. There is a chance. We are initially entering into an MoU and then we would finalise other terms and conditions.

What are other global hot spots for exploration companies

There are certain hot spots. West and east Africa continue to be prolific in terms of deep water acreages. Other areas are in Latin America, such as Brazil.