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Govt expects Rs 40,000 crore investment in OALP-II round

14 oil & gas blocks on auction for prospecting in open acreage licensing policy’s round 2

New Delhi: The Government is expecting about Rs 40,000 crore of investment in the 14 blocks it put up on auction for prospecting of oil and gas in the second round of open acreage licensing policy (OALP), Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said Monday. In the first round of OALP last year, as much as Rs 60,000 crore was committed in the exploration of oil and gas in 55 blocks or areas, he said adding a third round of OALP with 12 oil and gas blocks and five coal-bed methane (CBM) blocks would be launched within this month.

The 14 blocks being offered in OALP-II bid rounds cover an area of 29,333 square kilometers and bids close on March 12, he said at the launch event. Since the BJP-led NDA came to power in 2014, the government has held two auctions of discovered small fields and a similar number under OALP and the cumulative investment committed is Rs 1,20,000 crore, he said. "In the first OALP bid round, we got an investment commitment of Rs 60,000 crore. In OALP-II we are expecting another Rs 40,000 crore," he said. India had in July 2017 allowed companies to carve out blocks of their choice with a view to bringing about 2.8 million sq km of unexplored area in the country under exploration.

Under OALP, companies are allowed to put in an expression of interest (EoI) for prospecting of oil and gas in an area that is presently not under any production or exploration licence. EoIs can be put in at any time of the year but they are accumulated twice annually. The blocks or areas that receive EoIs at the end of a cycle are put up for auction with the originator or the firm that originally selected the area getting a 5-mark advantage. The two window of accumulating EoIs end on May 15 and November 15 every year. EoIs accumulated till May 15 are supposed to be put on auction by June 30 and those in the second window by December 31.

The first OALP round was launched in 2017 and bids came in by May 2018. EoIs for second round closed on May 15, 2018 and the blocks were supposed to be put for auction by June but the round was delayed. In the meanwhile, EoIs in the third window also closed on November 15, 2018 with as many as 18 blocks and five CBM blocks, measuring 31,722 sq km, being sought for.

"About 90,000 sq km of India's sedimentary basin was under exploration prior to these bid rounds. In two OALP rounds and two discovered small field (DSF) rounds, the area under exploration has more than doubled," Pradhan said. The world's third largest energy consumer is looking at boosting out as its economy expands.

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and a consortium of Reliance Industries-BP of the UK have committed USD 20 billion in exploring and producing oil and natural gas from their Krishna Godavari basin blocks.

The blocks on offer in OALP-II include one in deep waters of Krishna Godavari basin and five shallow water blocks - two each in Andaman and Kutch basin and one in Mahanadi basin. Eight onland blocks — four in Mahanadi basin, two in Cambay and one each in Rajasthan and Cauvery are on offer.

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