New Delhi: India approved oil exploration contracts for Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC), the nation’s biggest energy explorer, and BHP Billiton Ltd as it sought to cut dependence on imports.

Energy concerns: An ONGC offshore platform. India is seeking to reduce dependence on imports as production from domestic fields declines. Bloomberg

Asia’s third biggest energy consumer is seeking to reduce dependence on imports to meet demand for fuels as production from four-decade-old domestic fields declines.

The finance ministry expects gross domestic product to expand 8% in the year starting 1 April.

India received bids for 36 of the 70 oil and gas areas offered in the auction last year, the government said in October.

Explorers may have been deterred on concern that a legal dispute between billionaire brothers Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani over gas supplies from the $38 billion (Rs1.73 trillion) field will lead to increased state control of energy pricing, according to V.K. Sibal, then director general of hydrocarbons.

ONGC said on 12 October it won 17 fields in partnership with other companies. BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, was selected to explore three offshore areas, according to provisional data from the oil regulator, which conducted the auction. Cairn Energy Plc won two offshore areas.