Indian oil firms focus on production in fight for foreign assets

Dec 03 2012, 17:29 IST
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Faced with soaring demand, stagnant output at home and a need to diversify from Iranian crude imports lost to Western sanctions, Indian oil companies are hungry for deals like ONGC's Kashagan buy that promise supplies sooner rather than later. (Reuters) Faced with soaring demand, stagnant output at home and a need to diversify from Iranian crude imports lost to Western sanctions, Indian oil companies are hungry for deals like ONGC's Kashagan buy that promise supplies sooner rather than later. (Reuters)
SummaryFaced with soaring demand, stagnant output at home and a need to diversify from Iranian crude imports lost to Western sanctions, Indian oil companies are hungry for deals like ONGC's Kashagan buy that promise supplies sooner rather than later.

Faced with soaring demand, stagnant output at home and a need to diversify from Iranian crude imports lost to Western sanctions, Indian oil companies are hungry for deals like ONGC's Kashagan buy that promise supplies sooner rather than later.

State-run ONGC Videsh has agreed to pay about $5 billion for 8.4 percent of the Kashagan field in Kazakhstan, the world's largest oilfield discovery in four decades - which could boost its output by about 16 percent within a year.

The deal adds to a stable of assets that span some of the trickiest territories in the world - Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya among them - accumulated as parent Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) struggled with domestic output.

But it's a drop in the ocean for the world's fourth-biggest crude importer - it buys in 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) - where the energy gap triggers constant power cuts. Asia's third-largest economy plans to hit 8 percent growth in 2014/15 and by 2030 that could lift it to be third-largest in the world and also the No. 3 energy consumer, according to BP.

Oil supplies have become more urgent as Western sanctions over nuclear projects squeeze Iran, once India's second-biggest supplier. India's imports from Tehran slipped by nearly a fifth to 257,000 bpd in April-September.

"Our priority is to look for discovered, developed and producing assets which give us production growth immediately," T.K. Anantha Kumar, head of finance for Oil India, the country's other state-run explorer said.

While not all the oil bought overseas turns up in domestic refineries, it can give companies a stake in the global crude trade, enhancing their flexibility for supplies and potentially helping profits.

ONGC Videsh said in its 2011/12 annual report that its tough production targets - 20 million tonnes of oil equivalent by 2017/18 and 60 million tonnes by 2029/30 - mean it "needs to concentrate on acquiring assets in (the) development and production phase initially" before looking at exploration acreage.

Parent ONGC does not have a good track record in exploration and was slated this year by the state auditor for focusing too much on producing fields at home.

"Definitely we are looking at a good mix of producing as well as exploration assets because we want to increase our contribution" to India's energy security, an ONGC Videsh official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

ACQUISITIVE ASIA

Indian companies will face sharp competition for these assets, however, from Asian

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