57 oil, gas blocks on offer for deep-water exploration

57 oil, gas blocks on offer for deep-water exploration

New Delhi: India will begin its latest and largest yet auction of oil and gas assets on Thursday, and will look to hook the interest of global firms with the expertise to develop tricky deep-water blocks, oil ministry officials said.

On 13 December, the government will give details of the 57 exploration blocks up for grabs and bids will close on 11 April, petroleum and natural gas minister Murli Deora said on Monday. Awards should be made by the end of July.

India is attracting private capital for exploration and encouraging local companies to buy stakes in foreign oil and gas projects to meet the surging energy needs of Asia’s third largest economy.

Deora said steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal had told him at the weekend that he would bid for assets to raise his growing profile in India’s energy sector. Mittal has bought a 49% stake in a yet-to-be-built 180,000 barrels per day refinery in Punjab planned by Hindustan Petroleum Corp. The name of the Bhatinda refinery has since been changed to HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd. Mittal, who owns world steel leader ArcelorMittal, also has a joint venture with exploration firm Oil and Natural Gas Corp.—through subsidiary Mittal Investments Sarl—for jointly buying exploration assets.

An oil ministry official, who could not be named, said 19 deep-water blocks off India’s west and east coasts would be included in the auction, along with nine shallow-water blocks and 29 onland. He said the bid evaluation criteria had been modified and additional marks would be given to those involving foreign partners with deep-water experience.