Defence ministry delay for Oil India work in south

Vol 6, PW 1 (13 Mar 02) Exploration & Production

WORK ON OIL India's NELP-I offshore block CY-OSN-97/2 has stalled because the Ministry of Defence is delaying clearance for reasons of national security.

Why CY-OSN-97/2 is located in the narrow Palk Strait that separates India and northern Sri Lanka. The Palk Strait is frequently used by Tamil gunrunners as a weapons supply route for Tamil separatists fighting for their own homeland in northern Sri Lanka.

Oil India signed the PSC in 2000 and is currently in the three-year 'Phase-I' of its minimum work programme. To date it has completed reprocessing and reinterpretation of 1,000-km old 2D but cannot begin shooting 400-km 3D till the defence ministry relents.

Oil India has shortlisted its seismic survey contractor but is powerless until the defence ministry makes up its mind. Shastri Bhawan is strongly pushing Oil India's case with the defence ministry.

"We were hoping to be able to shoot 3D in the March-September fair weather window," reveals a source. "But even if the defence ministry clearance comes through now the work will spill over into next year's fair weather window because equipment mobilisation takes time." Another worry is the shallow water depth of between five and 30 metres.

"Getting survey vessels and equipment for such shallow depths is very, very difficult," we learn. "Much of the equipment will have to be custom made, which will push up costs substantially." More, the seabed here has mounds and rolling sand, all of which add up to the complexity of the work.