Cairn struggles to get PEL for block in north Bihar

Vol 8, PW 19 (15 Dec 04) Exploration & Production

Nothing moves in the Indian state of Bihar except for the holy river Ganga.

Cairn Energy is getting a taste of Bihars wastefulness as local authorities continue to withhold the crucial Petroleum Exploration License that would allow Cairn to begin work on block GV-ONN-2002/1, awarded during the last NELP round. GV-ONN-2002/1 sits across 15, 500-sq km in the foothills of the Himalayas bordering Nepal.

The oil ministry has put in several requests to the Bihar government to accelerate the PEL process, a source reveals. But Cairn has still not received any favourable response from the state as yet.

Instead, Bihars environment ministry wants clarification from the oil ministry about Cairns proposed exploration activity in this Ganga Valley region, arguing that it poses a danger to the environment. Bihar is now telling us that this block falls in an area which is surrounded by two dense forests, an oil ministry source tells this report.

They are implying that they might not allow Cairn to start exploration activities. Cairn was sole bidder for block GV-ONN-2002/1 when it was auctioned in the last round of NELP.

In its exploration work programme for GV-ONN-2002/1 Cairn has made a minimum commitment of 500-line km of 2D seismic and one exploratory well. Depending on the results of initial exploration Cairn has the option to go in for Phase-II and III.

Block GV-ONN-2002/1 is located across three districts of Bihar: Arraria, Purnia and Kishanganj and covers a mere 126.05-sq km of the total 6764.14-sq km forest area in the entire state. During the early sixties ONGC drilled six (dry) exploratory wells in the Ganga Valley block.