Learning upstream jargon on a trip to ONGC south

Vol 8, PW 11 (25 Aug 04) People & Policy

Oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has developed a fetish for understanding complicated petroleum jargon, especially technical words used in the upstream sector! On 10th August, the maverick oil minister managed an impromptu learning session from ONGC geologists in Chennai during a detailed presentation on the companys operations in the Cauvery and Krishna Godavari basins.

PETROWATCH learns that during the presentation Aiyar launched into a tirade against the poor performance of state-owned oil companies and didnt spare ONGC for whom he has developed a special liking. Aiyar behaved as if he was on a mission to know anything and everything about ONGCs operations in the Cauvery delta and KG basins, reveals an ONGC source.

Aiyars inquisitiveness on every minute detail surprised ONGC geologists. What is the difference between an exploratory well and development well he asked.

Chairman Subir Raha sat next to Aiyar during the presentation and intervened several times to instruct his team to explain the terms in simple English. On the success ratios of drilling wells, Aiyar did some simple arithmetic to point out that ONGC was still far from the world average.

He also expressed surprise at ONGCs poor operations in the south and stated that: For 50 years you have been making losses and it is only now that you are out of the red! Aiyar then asked Raha how profitable ONGCs operations were in the Cauvery and KG basins. Raha explained that ONGC had made investments of more than Rs 3000cr ($660m) in the region over the past five decades.

If ONGC were to get a reasonable price for its oil and gas, its investment would have been six to seven times more in real terms, said Raha. The south turned around from red just a couple of years ago after price revision.

Retorted Aiyar: So, all I do is give you the right price and everything will be OK