New Delhi: State-owned ONGC has hired US-based consultant Ryder Scott to assess natural gas reserves in Gujarat State Petroleum Corp’s (GSPC) Deendayal block before deciding to buy a stake in it.
Since the BJP-led government came to power at the Centre, the Gujarat government firm GSPC has been seeking to sell a majority stake in its KG-OSN-2001/3 (Deendayal) block in Bay of Bengal to ONGC to avoid defaulting on loans.
ONGC initially was not keen to buy stake in the block as it felt the block had reserves far less than what GSPC was claiming and the asking price for the stake was not commensurate with the returns. “There is tremendous amount of pressure on ONGC to buy stake in GSPC block,” a person with direct knowledge of the matter said.
“Being a commercial organisation, it cannot throw away money so it has now decided to get the reserves in the GSPC block validated.” Ryder Scott Petroleum Consultants has been asked to evaluate gas properties in the GSPC block and independently certify the reserves quantities, the person said. “The consultant will submit its report by November,” he said.
GSPC was to begin gas production from the block in 2013 but after sinking in $3.6 billion it was found that gas reserves are one-tenth of 20 trillion cubic feet claimed in 2005 and that too is technically difficult to produce. In the process it has amassed Rs.19,576 crore of debt, on which interest cost was Rs.1,804.06 crore in 2014-15, according to the CAG. And against this its revenue was Rs.152.51 crore in 2014-15.
People familiar with the matter said, GSPC has been doing trial production of a very small volume of gas from 4 August, 2014 and has not yet reached commercial production and in absence of revenue commensurate with the debt servicing obligations it risks becoming a defaulter. To bail out of the situation, it offered to sell 50% stake to ONGC, they said. Money from ONGC can repay a part of the debt and the remaining would become a joint liability of the two firms.