In a major policy change, finance and petroleum ministers can now award oil and gas exploration blocks to successful bidders, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) announced on Wednesday. The move is expected to fast-track the process of awarding oil and gas exploration blocks to successful bidders under the Hydrocarbon Exploration Licensing Policy (HELP). At present, CCEA’s approval is necessary for awarding blocks. The oil and gas exploration blocks are awarded twice in a year under HELP.
In other policy changes, cabinet decided that there is no need for Coal India to apply for separate license to extract coal bed methane (CBM) under its coal bearing areas. Such a step would help in reducing supply demand gap and enhancing the availability of the gas, the government expects, The Indian Express reported.
It was in March 2016 that HELP was introduced. The policy includes features such as revenue-sharing contract, single licence for exploration and production of hydrocarbon resources and marketing and pricing freedom.
As per the open acreage licensing policy (OALP) that forms a critical part of HELP investors are allowed to carve out blocks of their own interest. Till May 2, 2018, bidders are can submit bids for 55 exploration blocks under first round of OLAP. It is in January that the bidding process will begin. Six companies have submitted expressions of interest under OLAP for the 55 blocks.
The CBM policy first came into existence in 1997 and was amended later in the year 2013. 26,000 square kilometres of coal basinal areas have been identified for CBM exploration by the coal ministry and ministry of petroleum and natural gas.
Out of 33 CBM blocks which have already been awarded, only 14 out of the awarded blocks were operational as of July 2017.