Why was the PMO discussing the Bombay High?

Vol 4, PW 23 (20 Dec 00) People & Policy

Why anyone would even bother to suggest leasing the Bombay High to a foreign multinational, even in partnership with ONGC, is a mystery.

In India you would have to be rather naive to suggest that the countrys largest oil producing asset be shared with a foreign major. Unsurprisingly, ONGC chairman Bikash Bora - who was called to the above meeting at short notice - dismissed Petrodrills theory as unworkable and pleaded for time to see through ONGC's own recovery programme.

In his letter Bhandari said the recovery factor at the Bombay High is 26% but that it could be raised to 40% and achieve an additional 1.8bn barrels of incremental oil by involving a multinational prepared to risk investment in the requisite technology. Bhandari suggests that the multinational could recover costs from the additional crude over and above the production profile set by ONGC and that after cost recovery, it could take its reward from the surplus crude output, leaving ONGC with the balance.

Marathon Oil had offered ONGC such a deal before negotiations between the two broke down, said the letter. Perhaps, but why was a senior group of officials close to the prime minister talking about the Bombay High when they should have been discussing surplus production from Reliance's refinery at Jamnagar Is it because ONGC's board was scheduled to discuss a massive investment programme for Bombay High on 16th December Or is it because Petrodrill has a voice in the Prime Minister's Office