Angry Eni tells ONGC and GAIL it wants India exit

Vol 17, PW 23 (03 Jul 14) People & Policy

Eni has had enough and is openly telling partners ONGC and GAIL it wants to relinquish the AN-DWN-2003/2 deepwater permit and exit India.

ONGC and GAIL officers failed to persuade the Italian explorer to continue Phase-I exploration work during a June 26 meeting of the block’s Operating Committee (OC) at the Hyatt Regency in Delhi from 2.30 to 5pm. "Eni told us they don't want to work in India anymore," says a source.

"They were stubborn." Yet it's hard to blame Eni, which hasn't had it easy.

After a four-year battle, it won partial clearance from the Department of Space for work at the NELP-V Andaman block, which lies in the flight path of Indian rocket launches. Eni was earlier forced to relinquish its 1335-sq km RJ-ONN-2003/1 block in Rajasthan after discovering half the acreage sits in a protected conservation area.

In November 2013, the ministry allowed Eni to drill three Phase-I wells at AN-DWN-2003/2 but in a restricted area. Eni refuses to drill the wells without unconditional clearance from the Department of Space and is happy to relinquish the block by paying its 40% share of the $240m penalty for three unfinished wells.

"But we hold the maximum stake (45%) and will pay the maximum amount," says ONGC. "Why should we pay for Eni's stubbornness"