MUTED ENTHUSIASM AS DEADLINE APPROACHES

Vol 3, PW 14 (04 Aug 99) Exploration & Production
     

Interesting to note is the difference in attitude between Indian oil explorers and overseas oil explorers with regard to the 48 concessions tendered under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP).

Talk to Indian oil companies and without exception they tell you they will bid. By contrast talk to overseas companies and the response is a universal: "We havent made our mind up yet".

With the deadline hardly two weeks away (August 18th), such a tepid response is hardly encouraging. Excuses range from the familiar, "its all old acreage", for onshore and shallow water concessions to, "theres nothing spectacular", for the deepwater concessions on the east coast.

Competition for exploration dollars is apparently so stiff, that most foreign companies, initially enthused by NELP, are now comparing whats on offer in India, with whats on offer elsewhere. And what they see is better value elsewhere.

"We have to compare India to areas where there is a much better return on a dollar invested", said one. Most foreign oil companies remain genuinely undecided about bidding and tell this report they will leave it to the last week before making up their mind.

All this is music to the ears of Indian oil companies who dont have the opportunity to "look elsewhere". This explains why they will be bidding in strength on August 18th.

Reliance Petroleum, ONGC, Oil India and Gas Authority of India (GAIL) all tell this report in unequivocal terms that they will bid, either alone or with a partner. A cynic would argue their enthusiasm has more to do with domestic pressure than any real enthusiasm for the acreage.