Huge surprise as only 3 bid for 27-rig contract

Vol 22, PW 7 (24 Jan 19) Exploration & Production

After nine months of heightened suspense, ONGC has received only three bids in a tender for 27 onland drilling rigs.

By the January 10 deadline, this report learns the only companies to respond were a joint venture of US-headquartered National Oilwell Varco (NOV) with Indian state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL); Italian rig manufacturer Drillmec with Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering & Infrastructures and finally, Schlumberger with China Petroleum Technology & Development Corporation (CPTDC). More than 15 companies from around the world were originally interested if their attendance at a pre-bid on October 11 (2018) for this tender is anything to go by.

So what went wrong? ONGC's refusal to accept a less stringent steel quality certificate and reluctance to extend the bid deadline are blamed. "If ONGC wanted more bids," says a source at a company which refused to bid because of the strict eligibility criteria, "it should have been more congenial towards bidders."

A source at CPTDC was more upbeat saying his colleagues at the company's India office are looking forward to a two-week break after submitting the bid. "We worked on this tender very hard for many months," he said.

"ONGC might not be happy but it's good for us there are only three bidders." This tender was originally for 27 drilling rigs and 20 workover rigs but ONGC decided to tender for workover rigs separately.

It also ignored a recommendation from its tender committee to allow bids only from rig manufacturers.