Panna-Mukta-Tapti Operatorship Issue Close To Resolution

New Delhi, December 25: | Updated: Dec 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
After ten months of bickering, the operatorship issue of Panna, Mukta and Tapti oil and gas fields appears to be heading for a resolution with the British oil and gas major BG Group proposing involvement of Indian partners in award of multi-million dollar contracts.

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which had earlier said it would not settle for anything less than joint operatorship, too was looking at the fresh offer as a means to resolve the issue, informed sources said.

BG, which took over interim operatorship of the fields after buying Enrons 30 per cent stake, has also promised transparency and greater participation of Indian partners in decision making.

Though BG falls short of accepting joint operatorship of the fields, ONGC and Reliance Industries - the third partner - are favourably looking at the proposal as it promises them greater say, they said, adding one indication of the proposal finding acceptance with ONGC-RIL combine was that they havent passed a judgement even after a fortnight of its submission.

ONGC-RIL were to invoke the termination notice to remove BG from interim operatorship at the December 4 Joint Operating Committee (JOC) meeting, the move was shelved pending studying the fine prints of the proposal.

Involving Indian partners in award of contracts, which are said to provide the operators with additional revenues, was a means to providing transparency in the operations, sources said while pointing out that a 800 million dollar development plan to enhance the field was pending clearance. The Governments upstream nodal agency Directorate General of hydrocarbons, which is represented on JOC, too has favoured joint operatorship in light of bitter experience with previous operator - Enosal, ONGC-RIL combine, who have viewed previous proposals including that of forming an unincorporated joint venture as a ploy by BG to get itself nominated to the operators seat, have decided to study the latest one, they said.

Sources said Indian partners would seek to remove BG from the post of interim operator, if the proposal does not meet their expectations.

ONGC is the largest shareholder in the field with 40 per cent stake while RIL has the remaining 30 per cent.

Two deadlines set by petroleum minister Ram Naik have failed to bring the three partners around to an amicable solution to the operatorship issue, which had forced a loss of about Rs 1.5 crore a day by way of unrealised production potential.