Exxon Mobil, British Petroleum, RIL likely to skip oilfield auction

Exxon Mobil, Chevron and BP plc are likely to opt out of the first oil field auction round in over four years due to small size of acreage being offered


Bids for the auction of 46 discovered small oil and gas fields closes at 12pm on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Bids for the auction of 46 discovered small oil and gas fields closes at 12pm on Monday. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: Global energy giants Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and British Petroleum plc as well as domestic players like Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) are unlikely to bid in the auction of 46 discovered small oil and gas fields that closes on Monday.

While oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan travelled the globe—from Singapore to Houston, to get investors for the first oil field auction round in over four years, big giants are likely to opt out primarily due to the small size of acreage being offered and the overheads require to bring them to production.

Bids for the auction closes at 12pm on 21 November and may see only companies like the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Oil India Ltd (OIL), Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd (GSPC) and some smaller players like Hindustan Oil Exploration Company (HOEC) bidding, multiple industry officials said.

Most companies had raised concerns about the size of the blocks or fields on offer. They say 10 square kilometer offering, one-tenth of the smallest block ever offered in the previous bid rounds, is too small. The small size of the offering places prohibitive operational costs on big companies and such fields are viable only for small players with one-rig operation, the officials said.

Magna Energy Ltd, the firm floated by maverick oil explorer Mike Watts who gave India its largest oilfield in Rajasthan, too is not likely to bid even though it was betting big on the country.

People with knowledge of the matter said the government should have ideally clubbed two or more fields into a single unit to improve bidding prospects. Also, data on reserves in the fields and their extension beyond the block boundaries were also found to be inadequate.

Previously, the last date of bidding for the Discovered Small Field Bid Round was 31 October but was extended to 21 November.

Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) chief Atanu Chakraborty in a presentation on the bid round said 67 discovered fields are being offered under 46 contract areas. Of these, 26 are on-land, 18 shallow water and 2 deepest fields. The fields hold an in-place reserves of 48 million tonnes of oil (17.85mt in on-land blocks and 30.19mt on offshore blocks) and over 38 billion cubic metres of gas reserves (7.20bcm in on-land blocks and 31.18bcm in offshore areas).

“Many of the blocks offered are located in the vicinity of the existing operating fields of ONGC/OIL enabling possibility of use of existing facilities by successful bidders,” Chakraborty said in the presentation.

The auction, which was announced on 25 May, is to be conducted on simpler contractual terms together with pricing and marketing freedom.

The auction will be done on a new revenue sharing model where bidders will be asked to quote the revenue they will share with the government at low and high end of price and production band. ONGC and OIL “surrendered” these as they could not develop them because of huge overhead cost and uneconomic size.

The last exploration licensing round concluded in March 2012. That was the ninth round of bidding under New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP). A total of 256 blocks were awarded in the nine rounds of NELP. PTI

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