ONGC seeks new petroleum exploration licence for PMT oil, gas fields

ONGC has already approached the ministry of petroleum and the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons seeking licence for exploration
State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has lined up a plan to revive the Tapti field near Mumbai. Towards this end, the country’s largest hydrocarbon producer has approached the government for a fresh petroleum exploration licence spanning 10 years, said multiple sources close to the development.

Reliance Industries (RIL) and Shell ceased production from the fields in 2016, and ONGC has already been using Tapti infrastructure for its other fields for better optimisation. 

Panna-Mukta and Tapti (PMT) fields were privatised in 1994. RIL and Shell, through the subsidiary BG Exploration & Production India (BGEPIL), held 30 per cent each in the PMT joint venture. The remaining 40 per cent was owned by ONGC as a government nominee.

The Tapti process platform facilities were handed over to ONGC in 2016, after the private firms ceased production. “ONGC has taken over the platforms there and is using it for C-Series cluster and the Daman project. As far as Tapti production plans are concerned, the company is on the move,” confirmed a source close to the development. The PMT fields were the first in India to be operated under a joint operatorship model.

In December 2019, Shell and RIL had said in a statement that decommissioning and site restoration of residual Tapti facilities, including five unmanned platforms and in-field pipelines, are currently being carried out by the PMT JV under India’s first offshore decommissioning and site restoration project. “ONGC will have to take an exploration licence for that if it wants to continue to keep the Tapti platform,” he said.

ONGC has already approached the ministry of petroleum and the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons seeking licence for exploration. The ministry will take a final call.

The government had approached the Delhi High Court last year seeking to block RIL’s plan to sell stake in its petroleum business to Saudi Aramco citing non-payment of $4.5 billion dues for the PMT fields. The companies are of the opinion that except when quantified by the arbitration tribunal, no amount can be said to be payable at this stage. The English High Court reportedly delivered a judgment on February 12 rejecting Government of India’s five challenges to the 2018 arbitration award. 

The PMT fields were handed over to ONGC by the private players in December after the expiry of the production sharing agreement for the fields. “At present, production from this region is 11,000 barrels a day of crude oil and some small quantity of natural gas, too,” said an ONGC official. Starting December 1994, the fields had produced over 211 million barrels (MMBBLs) of oil and 1.25 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas. Sources said if ONGC starts fresh production, the idea will be to jointly utilise the Tapti platforms for other facilities, too.

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