ONGC venture in race with 12 firms for Kuwait oil spill contract

ONGC venture in race with 12 firms for Kuwait oil spill contract

New Dehi: ONGC Teri Biotech Ltd (OTBL), a venture of Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC) and The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), is competing with 12 companies for Kuwait Oil Co.’s (KOC) $3 billion (around 13,300 crore) contract to clean up a desert oil slick created in the Gulf war that followed Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

While the evaluation of the pre-qualification criteria (PQC) is under way for the United Nations-funded project, the joint venture also plans to bid for another $2.5 billion tender, which is expected shortly, said OTBL chairman A.K. Hazarika.

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The PQC is being evaluated for a 160 sq. km area that will need to be cleaned up. The oil spill covers 360 sq. km of desert. After the PQC process is over, the selected companies will be given tender documents to submit commercial bids.

“We are offering the oil zapper technology, where bacteria eat away the oil part of the contaminated soil," said Hazarika, who is also director, onshore, ONGC.

“A specific bacteria was developed to take care of this oil slick as different soil and temperate conditions need a specific solution. The bacteria was tested in Kuwait. We expect to get some part of the tender," said Hazarika, without naming the other firms in the fray.

KOC did not not respond to emailed questions.

“We are expecting another $2.5 billion tender from KOC, which is the national oil company of Kuwait. We will be interested in participating in that," Hazarika added.

The so-called bioremediation agent offered through OTBL’s oil zapper technology can be used to clean up both offshore and onshore oil slicks and is capable of surviving even temperatures of up to 70 degrees Centigrade.

ONGC has applied the technology at its own fields and also for other companies such as Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd and Oil India Ltd.

“It’s a viable technology and related approaches were used even during the oil spill of the Gulf of Mexico. But all of these are limited solutions and cannot completely offset the damage done to marine life. Long-term effects will continue to remain," said A.P. Sinha, professor of organic chemistry at Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati.

OTBL’s tender figured in the discussions held between India and the Kuwaiti delegation led by petroleum and natural gas minister Sheikh Ahamad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on his visit to India last month.

India has been trying to engage Kuwait in an attempt to forge long-term arrangements for crude oil supply and mutual investments in the hydrocarbon sector.

West Asia holds the key to energy security for India, the world’s fifth largest oil importer. Energy supply deficits are a cause of concern for Asian economies including China, India, Japan and South Korea.

India wants Kuwaiti investments in its petrochemical complexes and crude oil storage hubs.

It is also seeking Kuwaiti participation in the ninth round of auctions of oil and gas blocks under the new exploration and licensing policy.

Jacob Koshy contributed to this story