Oiling The Petroleum Machinery

Updated: Dec 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
The year witnessed major policy decisions in the petroleum sector. The dismantling of the Administered Pricing Mechanism from April 1 was one such move aimed at increasing competition in the sector. The Petroleum Regulatory Board Bill 2002 has also been introduced in the Lok Sabha for setting up a petroleum regulatory board.

The strategic disinvestment of IBPa stand-alone marketing companywas carried out during the year for sale of the governments equity of 33.58 per cent. Indian Oil Corp. (IOC) bought it at a price of Rs 1,153 crore.

The government also decided to merge Chennai Petroleum Corp. Ltd (CPCL) and Bongaigon Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (BRPL) with IOC, and Kochi Refineries Ltd (KRL) with Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd (BPCL). Similarly, Numaligarh Refineries Ltd (NRL) was restructured by transferring 19 per cent of IBPs equity to BPCL.

2002 can also be described as the year of controversies as far as disinvestment in oil PSUs is concerned. Petroleum minister Ram Naik came under fire for allotting petrol pumps and kerosene LPG agencies to his party colleagues and their kin.

Even though the cabinet has decided to sell the governments equity in oil PSUs, it has finally been decided that Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL) will be put up for sale, while BPCL will see an initial public offering.

In the other PSUs, namely Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) and IOC, it has been decided that the governments equity will not come below 51 per cent and these three PSUs have been listed as being of strategic importance.

The Centres decision to deregulate the oil sector has paved the way for private companies to enter the field of marketing petro products. Marketing rights have been allotted to companies such as Reliance Industries, Essar Oil, ONGC and Numaligarh Refinery.

Prices of petrol, diesel and jet fuel (ATF), but not those of kerosene and domestic LPG, now move in line with international prices of crude oil.

As many as four public sector companies are keen on bidding for HPCL. These are the two exploration and production companies, ONGC and Oil India Ltd (OIL), and GAIL and the Indian Farmers and Fertilizers Cooperative Ltd.

Last but not least, in one of the largest finds of natural gas in the country, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) announced the discovery of seven trillion cubic feet in place volume of natural gas in the Krishna-Godavari (KG) Basin in Andhra Pradesh. RIL had achieved 100 per cent success in all the five wells it has drilled so far in the block.

RIL, in consortium with Niko Resources of Canada, was awarded two deep water blocks in the KG Basin under the first offering of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP). The success of this discovery comes in an aggressive schedule of 20 months from the receipt of the exploration licence.