The latest licensing round for allowing companies to explore for oil and natural gas was held on revamped terms but saw only ONGC and Oil India Ltd participating in it. ONGC put in bids for all the seven blocks on offer, while OIL put in an offer for one block at the close of bidding on October 31, 2019.
ONGC was the sole bidder in five blocks in Madhya Pradesh and one in West Bengal and it was locked in competition with OIL in one block in Rajasthan. ONGC walked away with all the seven blocks on superior bids.
According to the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), seven onland blocks were on offer in the fourth round of Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) with an area of about 18,510 sq km.
"With the culmination of Bid Round-IV today (Thursday), we have awarded 94 blocks under the exploration policy in a very short time span of two and a half years. These 94 blocks cover an exploratory area of approximately 1,36,800 sq km over 16 Indian sedimentary basins," Pradhan said. "Investors of the 94 blocks have committed 29,270 line kilometers of 2D seismic survey and 43,272 sq km of 3D seismic survey, 369 numbers of exploratory wells, 290 core analysis to establish shale resources. This will generate investment to the tune of USD 2.35 billion (about Rs 16,450 crore) over the next 3/4 years in the exploratory activities alone."
In the first three rounds of OALP, about 1,18,000 sq km area was awarded, he said adding that the area awarded for exploration compares with about 90,000 sq km of area under exploration prior to OALP.
The fourth round of bidding under OALP had the lowest number of blocks. While the first round got 110 bids for 55 blocks, the second round attracted 33 bids for 14 blocks. The third round saw 42 bids for 23 blocks. In the previous three rounds together, 87 blocks have been awarded covering an area of 1.18 lakh sq km.
OALP-IV was the first round on revamped terms approved in February 2019.
Unlike previous rounds where blocks were awarded to companies offering a maximum share of oil and gas to the government, blocks in little or unexplored category-II and III basins are now awarded to companies offering to do maximum exploration programme.
While blocks in Madhya Pradesh fall in the Vindhyan basin which is a category-II basin, the Bengal Purnea basin is category-III area where no exploration has happened so far.
Pradhan said the OALP-IV will open two new basins for exploration in the country.
Under OALP, companies are allowed to carve out areas they want to explore oil and gas in. Companies can put in an expression of interest for any area throughout the year but such interests are accumulated thrice in a year. The areas sought are then put on auction.
The fifth cycle of submitting EoIs closed on November 30, 2019, and was followed by the sixth cycle that began on December 1, 2019, and will last till March 31, 2020.
As much as 20,000 sq km of the area has been sought in the fifth cycle which will be put for bidding before March, Pradhan said.
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