Govt gets 10 bids for 8 oil, gas blocks in latest bid round: DGH

New Delhi: As many as four companies, including three state-owned, put in 10 bids for the eight oil and gas blocks on offer in India's latest round of bidding for exploration acreage, according to the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH).

Total six out of the eight blocks on offer got single bids while there were two bidders for the remaining area, DGH said in a summary of bids received on blocks that were offered in the seventh bid round of Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP).

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) bid for five out of the eight blocks or areas offered for exploring and producing oil and gas, while Oil India Ltd (OIL) was the only bidder for the two blocks it made an offer for. GAIL was the sole bidder for the lone block on offer from Rajasthan.

ONGC was the sole bidder in three of the blocks and had Sun Petrochemicals Pvt Ltd for competition in two others, according to DGH.

The eight blocks offered in OALP-VII were spread over six sedimentary basins, 5 states covering 15,766 square kilometer area. While five blocks are onland type, two are shallow water-type and one block is ultra deep-water type.

The previous bid round, OALP-VI, too had attracted just three bidders, two being ONGC and OIL. Out of the 21 blocks or areas that were offered for exploration and production of oil and gas in OALP-VI, 18 got single bids. ONGC, India's largest oil producer, was the sole bidder for 16 blocks.

Sun Petrochemicals was the only other company to have bid besides ONGC and OIL in that round.

The government is yet to announce the winners of OALP-VI.

The government has been hoping that opening up more acreage for exploration will help boost India's oil and gas production, helping cut down the $90 billion oil import bill.

In 2016, it introduced an open acreage policy which moved away from the previous practice of government identifying and bidding out blocks to the one where explorers were allowed to identify any area outside of the ones that are already with some company or the other, for prospecting of oil and gas.

The areas identified are to be clubbed twice a year and offered for bidding. The firm identifying the area gets a 5 point advantage.

Except for the first round, private sector participation has been scant. Mining mogul Anil Agarwal's Vedanta Ltd walked away with 41 blocks out of the 55 blocks on offer in the very first round and got another 10 areas in two subsequent rounds.

Other rounds have been dominated by state-owned firms.

India is dependent on imports to meet 85 per cent of its oil needs and finding newer reserves through exploration rounds is key to cutting that reliance.

In the first five OALP bid rounds, 105 blocks for exploration of oil and gas were bid for. Of these, Vedanta walked away with 51. OIL won 25 and ONGC another 24.

The joint venture of Reliance Industries and BP got one block. Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), GAIL, BRPL and HOEC too got one block each.

The 105 blocks spanning an area of around 156,580 square kilometer in over 17 sedimentary basins of India attracted a total committed investment of $2.378 billion in the exploration phase.

Features of the OALP round include reduced royalty rates, no oil cess, uniform licensing system, marketing and pricing freedom and revenue-sharing model, according to DGH.

Exploration rights are offered on all retained areas for full contract life, it said adding concessional royalty rates apply in case of early commercial production.

There is no revenue sharing in blocks falling in Category II and III Basins except in the case of windfall gains.

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