Reliance Industries has outbid rivals, including state-owned GAIL India, to buy the entire volume of natural gas from its own coal seam blocks until March 2021. In May, RIL had become the first buyer of gas it produced from its own coal bed methane (CBM) block in Madhya Pradesh after agreeing to pay the highest price of USD 4.23 per million British thermal unit (mmBtu) for May-June. In the following quarter, it paid an additional 6 per cent at USD 4.50 per mmBtu to take all of the CBM gas from Sohagpur East and Sohagpur West blocks.
In the latest bidding for up to 3 million standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) of gas to be produced during October 2017 and March 2021, RIL quoted USD 6.26 per mmBtu at the current oil price, according to bid documents. Piramal Glass was the second-highest bidder quoting USD 4.97 per mmBtu, followed by Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GPSC) putting in a bid of USD 4.9. GAIL bid for 1.5 mmscmd of gas at a price of USD 4.63 per mmBtu while its subsidiary GAIL Gas sought an equivalent quantity at USD 4.11 per mmBtu price, the bid document showed.
RIL plans to use the gas at its petrochemical plants in Gujarat and Maharashtra, which run mostly on expensive imported fuel. Its petrochemical plants at Patalganga and Nagothane in Maharashtra and Vadodara and Jamnagar in Gujarat consumed an average of 4 mmscmd of gas during the last three months. RIL started commercial gas production from the CBM blocks in March and the planned output in October is 0.8 mmscmd, according to the bid document. Output would be ramped up to 2 mmscmd by March 2018 while the peak production of 3 mmscmd would touch in the third quarter of 2018.
The rate of CBM gas is 150 per cent more than the government mandated USD 2.48 per mmBtu price of the conventional natural gas produced by firms such as ONGC and RIL from the eastern offshore KG-D6 block. The bidding formula in all the three bid rounds for CBM gas this year has been the same and the process has been conducted by Crisil Risk and Infrastructure Solutions, a unit of Crisil.
This formula is almost similar to the one RIL had run in 2012 to discover a price for CBM gas. Back in 2012, it had sought bids for 3.5 mmscmd of coal gas at the benchmarked rate of 12.67 per cent of JCC, or Japan Customs-Cleared Crude, plus USD 0.26 per mmBtu. The formula was the same at which Petronet LNG, a joint venture of public oil companies, whose chairman is the oil secretary, used to buy long-term liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar.
At USD 100 per barrel oil price prevalent that year, CBM from RIL’s Madhya Pradesh block was to cost USD 12.93 per mmBtu. At USD 58 a barrel rate currently, it would have cost USD 7.3. That formula was, however, rejected by the ministry even though 59 valid bids seeking about 70 mmscmd of gas were received in the open tender.
In the current price discovery, RIL sought bids in the form of a deductible from 12.67 per cent of prevailing Brent crude oil price plus USD 0.52 per mmBtu plus USD 0.26 per mmBtu, according to the bid document. RIL bid deducting USD 1.836 per mmBtu and Piramal Glass USD 3.156. GAIL quoted a deduction of USD 3.495.
RIL has invested about USD 500 million in CBM and laying a 300-km pipeline from Sohagpur to Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh to connect to the national gas grid. Through an April 13 notification, the oil ministry had stated that a CBM producer had to call for open bids for sale of coal gas and seek quotes to discover the market price.