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NEW DELHI : Three state-run oil companies from India are seeking to invest jointly in the massive Vostok project of Russia’s Rosneft, two people aware of the development said, as the world’s third-largest crude oil consumer continues efforts to attain energy security.

The consortium of state-run ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), Indian Oil Corp Ltd (IOCL) and Oil India Ltd (OIL) has completed the technical evaluation of 30 out of 52 licence areas of the project, the people said, requesting anonymity.

“The talks are at a preliminary stage. For Vostok, the technical evaluation for 30 licence areas have been done. How much participatory interest will be taken will be based on evaluation based on technical data. It depends on how much is recoverable. Once the reserves match with the operator’s numbers, then the commercial evaluation will happen," one of the two people said.

India is also looking to invest in Russia’s liquefied natural gas project, Arctic LNG-2, by purchasing a stake from Novatek, which owns a 60% stake in the project, the person said.

“India has many assets in Russia and is now looking at two more projects—Rosneft’s Vostok project and Arctic LNG-2. These are the two projects which are at high priority," the person said.

With an estimated reserve of about 6 billion tonnes of crude oil and expected production of 100 million tonnes (mt) in 2030, Vostok is part of the multi-pronged energy partnership between India and Russia that involves energy sourcing and supplies, upstream investments and collaboration in petrochemicals. India is also exploring more long-term crude oil deals with Russia.

“Rosneft is negotiating entry into the (Vostok) project with a number of potential partners, including a consortium of Indian companies. We will inform you about the results of this work in a timely manner," a spokesperson for Rosneft said in an emailed response. He did not name the Indian companies.

“The resource base is comparable to the largest oil provinces in the Middle East or the US shale formations. The high quality of the feedstock eliminates the need for separate units at refineries and significantly reduces the project’s greenhouse gas emissions," the spokesperson said.

India’s state-owned firms have invested $16 billion in Russia, including in the Far East and East Siberia, in oil and gas assets such as Sakhalin-1, Vankor and Taas-Yuryakh.

“As a part of its normal business activities, ONGC Videsh continues to consider, evaluate and process several global business opportunities. For reasons of confidentiality and as a policy, we do not comment on specific opportunities until there are definitive agreements in place," a spokesperson for OVL said in an emailed response.

Queries emailed to spokespeople for IOC, India’s petroleum and natural gas ministry, and Novatek on Friday remained unanswered till press time. An OIL spokesperson asked Mint to seek comments from OVL for the Vostok project.

OVL, the overseas arm of ONGC, owns a 20% stake in the Sakhalin-1 hydrocarbon block though it suffered reverses in its $2.1-billion acquisition of Imperial Energy Corp. Plc’s Siberian deposits. Also, while OVL, OIL, IOC and Bharat Petroresources own 49.9% in the Vankorneft unit, another consortium comprising OIL, IOC and Bharat Petroresources owns 29.9% of Taas-Yuryakh Neftegazodobycha.

“One of the promising areas of cooperation may be the Vostok Oil project, which is the largest greenfield oil and gas project in the world. It comprises 52 licence areas with 13 oil and gas fields, including the Vankor field developed with Indian partners, the Suzunskoye, Tagulskoye and Lodochnoye fields, as well as the new and promising Payakhskoye and Zapadno-Irkinskoye fields, unique in their reserves," the Rosneft spokesperson said.

“The project’s outstanding potential is evidenced by the interest of global investors: at the end of 2020, the major international trader Trafigura bought a 10% stake in the project; in November 2021, a consortium led by Vitol acquired a 5% stake in the project," the Rosneft spokesperson said.

India is leaning on its old energy partner Russia to buffer its domestic consumers from sharp fluctuations in crude prices. “Rosneft has been actively promoting the integrated format for cooperation with Indian partners along the whole processing chain, from extraction to refining and oil product sales," the Rosneft spokesperson said, adding, “Rosneft has extensive experience with long-term contracts, and the company’s developing of vertically integrated cooperation with Indian partners along the entire value chain, up from new upstream projects in Russia with joint management of product flows, would strengthen India’s energy security. We hope that our new cooperation proposals will be welcomed by our Indian partners."

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