Fast-track push for 20 offshore exploration blocks
Move would benefit RIL, Cairn, BP, BHP Billiton and ONGC
The petroleum ministry is set to approach the Prime Minister-led Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) for fast-tracking the approvals for 20 offshore exploration blocks, held up for want of defence ministry clearances, despite the firms having signed production-sharing contracts.
The move would benefit Reliance Industries, Cairn, BP and BHP Billiton, apart from public-sector ONGC.
In the oil sector, government awarded several exploration blocks to firms under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) rounds.
But still there are 52 blocks waiting to get relevant approvals from the defence and environment ministries.
This has created an uncertain environment in the sector as exploration is by nature a high-risk business.
Out of the 52 blocks awaiting clearances, 22 are operated by ONGC, 15 by Reliance Industries, five by BHP Billiton, three by Cairn Energy, two by Santos and one each by BG Group, BP and ENI.
The Indian and foreign companies have already invested $12.4 billion for exploration and development activities in these blocks, according to official data. “We have raised our concerns to the PMO. It is taking interest in getting clearances,” an official of Cairn Eneregy said.
He added that Directorate General for Hydrocarbons, the technical arm of the oil ministry, has already given its clearances for its blocks which were under review.
Under nine auction rounds, India has awarded 249 blocks. But so far, discoveries
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