India launches auction for oil and gas exploration

New Delhi, Dec 13 (IANS) Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora Thursday launched the seventh round of bidding under the National Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) to auction acreages for oil and gas exploration.

“The seventh round of NELP bidding should attract at least $3.3 billion of investment in exploration alone,” the minister said.

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Global oil majors like Exxon Mobil and Chevron are expected to participate in the bidding for acreages this time, he added.

April 11, 2008 has been set as the date for opening the submitted bids.

This time the government has put on offer 57 oil and gas blocks – the highest under any NELP round – spanning over 171,000 sq km.

Of these, 19 blocks are in deep water, nine in shallow water and the rest on land.

Of the total blocks on offer this time, 24 were offered under the previous rounds but could not be auctioned for various reasons.

Fifteen other blocks included were relinquished to the government because successful bidders failed to complete the minimum work of exploration on schedule.

So far, 161 blocks have been awarded for exploration to contractors under the NELP regime.

The government has introduced consortium conditions that will give increased weight to the technical competence in evaluating bids for deep water blocks, Deora said.

He said the government had carved out smaller blocks to attract investment from medium-sized players.

The government has made changes in production sharing to make profit sharing simpler.