In a change of stand, private explorer Reliance Industries is learnt to have decided to participate in the AP Shah panel on the dispute with state-run ONGC over the allegation of theft of gas from the state-run firms’s idling Krishna Godavari fields.
Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, has been appointed by the petroleum ministry to study the report of US-based consultant DeGolyer and MacNaughton (D&M), which said that 11.122 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas had migrated from ONGC’s fields to the adjoining KG D6 block — KG-DWN-98/3 — operated by RIL, along with partners BP and Niko Resources. UK-based BP had promptly decided to participate in the Shah panel, while the Ambani firm wanted to stay out of it.
“I have been given to understand that RIL would be participating in the panel,” Dinesh K Sarraf, chairman and managing director of ONGC told mediapersons on Thursday. Sarraf said that two rounds of meetings were already held by Shah. In the first round, RIL had expressed a desire to stay away from the panel; however, in the second meeting meeting held this week, the Ambani firm has said it will participate in the panel’s proceedings, sources said.
RIL did not respond to FE’s query on the issue. The next meeting of the panel is scheduled on March 19.
The ONGC chairman said the Shah panel is working in a transparent manner and whatever is submitted by the parties is being circulated to all. “Within two days of holding the meeting, minutes are being circulated to everyone,” he added.
Earlier, RIL and its Niko Resources had questioned the jurisdiction of the Shah panel and rather wanted the dispute to be solved by arbitration. Both companies had separately written to the petroleum ministry, informing their stands.
The D&M study is reported to have said that nearly 11.1 bcm of gas migrated from ONGC’s G4PML and 98/2 discoveries to RIL acreage. Of this, the private explorer is believed to have commercially drilled nearly 8.2 bcm of gas and sold it to customers.
The government would take a final decision after the Shah panel’s report. ONGC moved the Delhi High Court alleging theft of gas by RIL by way of drilling wells close to its block. The KG-D6 block started producing hydrocarbons in 2009. ONGC has not produced oil or gas from its block. On September 10, the HC disposed of ONGC’s petition and directed the government to take a decision within six months of an independent panel’s report.