Global oil firms in the race for database tender

Global oil firms in the race for database tender

New Delhi: International oilfield service firms such as Schlumberger Ltd, Halliburton Co., Fugro NV and Russia’s Geoleader are in the race to help the government set up an integrated database on India’s hydrocarbon potential, which will help the country move away from periodic auctions for exploration rights to round-the-year bids.

The proposed database is called the national data repository, or NDR.

“Four companies have bid for the tender for which the scope of work includes both hardware and software. The initial time period for operating the NDR will be three years with the option of extending it. Setting up the NDR will help in shifting to open acreage licensing," said director general of hydrocarbons S.K. Srivastava.

The integrated data repository will contain data on all basins, as hydrocarbon-possessing lands are called.

Open acreages are simply areas that are yet to be licensed or leased for exploration by the government to explorers.

As much as 2.15 million sq. km of India’s total sedimentary area of 3.14 million sq. km has been licensed out, leaving 0.99 million sq. km available for exploration, according to data available on the regulator’s website.

Questions emailed to Schlumberger, Halliburton, Fugro and Geoleader remained unanswered at the time of going to press.

The winning bid will be decided shortly. Once NDR is set up, India will join a group of 20 nations, including Canada and the UK, that have a similar database.

The repository will be a public pool of crucial raw information on geological and geochemical characteristics, key information for those looking for potential hydrocarbon reservoirs.

Under the existing process, the new exploration licensing policy, or Nelp, companies can only bid for blocks that the government puts up for auction and have no role in the selection of the blocks.

The government expects the new process to encourage greater participation, especially from international oil companies, weed out blocks with little or no hydrocarbon prospects, and reduce risks inherent in explorations.

The lack of data has been one reason for limited interest in blocks being auctioned under Nelp. India has been trying to attract the big exploration and prospecting (E&P) firms such British Petroleum Plc, Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp., which have so far chosen not to participate in Nelp auctions.

“Apart from NDR, data and OAL (open acreage licensing) policy (OALP) being in place, the country needs appeal in the form of attractive and stable business environment and hydrocarbon prospectivity to be able to attract bids through OALP. We expect that acreage identified by any company will be put through competitive bidding. The policy formulated will tell us whether the company expressing interest first would be granted any preference," said Deepak Mahurkar, associate director, oil and gas industry practice, at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The total committed investment in Nelp rounds for exploration so far is around $10 billion (Rs44,700 crore), of which $5.3 billion has already been spent.

India has oil and gas reserves of 28-32 billion tonnes across 3.14 million sq. km and 26 basins.