Sources said the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) has completed the evaluation of the bids received for 32 oil and gas exploration blocks that were auctioned in the latest licensing round.
As per the bid evaluation, ONGC and Vedanta Ltd are top bidders in nine blocks each and state-owned Oil India Ltd (OIL) in 12 areas.
Reliance-BP combine outbid ONGC in one Krishna Godavari basin block in the Bay of Bengal.
The winners of the auction will be announced after the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sources added.
Bidding for 14 blocks on offer in the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) round-II and another 18 oil and gas blocks and five coal-bed methane (CBM) blocks on offer in OALP-III closed on 15 May.
Reliance-BP had made their first bid in eight years when they sought an area that contained natural gas discoveries they had previously made, sources said.
The partners had to relinquish more than half of their eastern offshore KG-D6 area in 2013 after failing to meet government timelines. The area given away contained three-four natural gas discoveries.
So, when the government in July 2017 allowed companies to carve out blocks of their choice with a view to bring about 2.8 million sq km of unexplored area in the country under exploration, Reliance-BP sought the KG area containing the discoveries.
Under the new policy, areas sought by any company are put on auction with the initiator or the company that originally carved out the block, getting a 5 point advantage.
Sources said Reliance-BP managed to get the coveted KG block in the latest auction by a small margin that possibly came from the originator marks and a commitment to do a shale core exploration.
Reliance-BP had last jointly bid for a KG deep water block in the 8th bid round under previous licensing policy in 2008. They, however, gave up the block after not finding any commercially exploitable oil and gas reserves.
In the following year, Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance on its own bid for six blocks in the ninth round of New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) but did not win any block.
Sources said at the close of bidding for the current round on 15 May, ONGC had put in bids for 20 out of the 32 blocks on offer, while OIL made bids for 16 blocks.
Vedanta, which had walked away with 41 out of the 55 blocks offered in OALP-I last year, bid for 30 areas.
Indian Oil Corp (IOC), GAIL (India) and SunPetro bid for two blocks each, they said.
BP had more than a decade back entered the country buying 30% stake in Reliance's 21 oil and gas exploration blocks for USD 7.2 billion. All but a couple of blocks have since been relinquished.
NELP has since been replaced by Hydrocarbon Exploration Licensing Policy (HELP) under which OALP bids round have been held.
Under the new policy, called open acreage licensing policy, companies are allowed to put in an expression of interest or EoI for prospecting of oil and gas in any area that is presently not under any production or exploration licence.
The EoIs can be put in at any time of the year but they are accumulated twice annually.
The blocks or areas that receive EoIs at the end of a cycle are put up for auction with the originator or the firm that originally selected the area getting a 5-mark advantage.
The two windows of accumulating EoIs end on May 15 and November 15 every year. EoIs accumulated till 15 May are supposed to be put on auction by June 30 and those in the second window by 31 December.
But a delay in offering of blocks meant that OALP-II and OALP-III ran concurrently.
While the OALP-I round saw an investment commitment of about ₹60,000 crore, the government is expecting about 90,000 crore of investment in the latest round.
In OALP-1, Vedanta walked away with 41 out of 55 blocks bid out. Oil India won nine blocks while ONGC managed to win just two.
Blocks are awarded to the company which offers the highest share of oil and gas to the government as well as commits to do maximum exploration work by way of shooting 2D and 3D seismic survey and drilling exploration wells.
The new policy replaced the old system of government carving out areas and bidding them out. It guarantees marketing and pricing freedom and moves away from production sharing model of previous rounds to a revenue-sharing model, where companies offering the maximum share of oil and gas to the government are awarded the block.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.