India scouts for Africa hydrocarbon stake

India scouts for Africa hydrocarbon stake

New Delhi: State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC) and GAIL (India) Ltd are in talks with Ghana National Petroleum Corp. (GNPC) for acquiring stakes in hydrocarbon blocks in the African country.

“We are in talks with ONGC and GAIL for the development of Ghana’s hydrocarbon sector through partnership," said Ato Ahwaoi, board chairman, GNPC.

This could include the Jubilee field, among the largest oil discoveries in the past few years.

China National Offshore Oil Corp. is in talks with GNPC for a stake, according to The Wall Street Journal, which has an exclusive content partnership in India with Mint.

“A lot of companies are interested in buying the Jubilee stake. I’m sure ONGC is one of them," Ghana’s deputy energy minister Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah told reporters on the sidelines of the second India-Africa hydrocarbons conference in New Delhi. “The Jubilee fields hold a lot of potential."

GNPC wants to buy Kosmos Energy Llc’s stake in the Jubilee field and then sell it to firms such as ONGC and GAIL.

“We have laws to ensure that investments will be protected," Buah said.

An ONGC executive, who declined to be identified, said the African nation has to take a view.

“It is for the Ghana government to decide," he said. “They have been talking about it for some time now."

In an attempt to check China’s growing influence in Africa and provide a fillip to India’s efforts to secure hydrocarbon assets in the continent, around 23 African countries have been invited to participate in the second India- Africa hydrocarbons conference, being held by the petroleum and natural gas ministry in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

China has organized similar conferences previously.

In a separate development, Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd is looking at setting up refineries in Africa and is chasing three separate opportunities in east and west Africa, said chairman and managing director Arun Balakrishnan.

India and China, both growing economies, need fuel reserves to feed their soaring energy needs. Africa is estimated to have around 10% of the world’s oil reserves.

The Chinese have a significant presence in Africa’s hydrocarbons sector and some experts partially attribute this to a failure on the part of the Indian government to actively engage the African countries, both politically and economically.

“We offer to the countries in Africa expertise in several fields, including in laying cross-country pipelines, setting up terminals and depots, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) plants, and marketing and distribution of various petroleum products," said petroleum minister Murli Deora.

In an unrelated development, state-owned Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd expects to commission its 6 million tonne Bina refinery by June, with production starting in July, said chairman and managing director Ashok Sinha at the same conference.

The refinery, which has been delayed by around three months, will come up at a total investment of Rs11,000 crore, a cost escalation of around 8%.