Oil India criticised for aborted 2D tender

Vol 24, PW 19 (12 Aug 21) Exploration & Production

Oil India is under fire from seismic contractors for inexplicably cancelling and then re-issuing a tender to shoot 870-lkm of long-overdue seismic in volatile Manipur on Myanmar's border.

Three companies bid on May 6 (2021) for the original tender issued on February 10 (2021) but were left disappointed when Oil India abruptly cancelled and re-issued it on July 29 (2021). "Oil India didn't even care to inform us about the cancellation," says one disgruntled bidder.

"One fine morning, I woke up to discover the tender had been cancelled and re-issued." He adds: "Had I been out of town, my company would have missed it; we were all waiting for the result of the (May 6) bids."

Our source further alleges Oil India's action has sparked rumours it is backing a particular company but declines to give further details. Meanwhile, disappointed contractors Gurgaon-based Quippo Oil & Gas, Russia's TNG-Group and Omani-backed AGS Geophysical, who all bid on May 6, now face a new August 19 (2021) bid deadline.

One of them, Russian contractor TGS, is reportedly planning to appeal to Oil India's team of Independent External Monitors (IEMs), but this could not be independently verified. In the spotlight is Oil India's new seismic supremo: Anup Kumar, chief of geophysical services, in charge since GVJ Rao retired on May 31 (2021).

"He (Kumar) wasn't happy so cancelled the tender," adds a second contractor, euphemistically. Oil India admits the delay to seismic acquisition across the Manipur districts of Bishnupur, Chandel, Churachandpur, Imphal-West, Senapati, Tamenglong, Thoubal, and Ukhrul will push back crew mobilisation and the start of work to October 2022 - instead of earlier plans to begin work by October or November 2021.

Had the February 10 tender been finalised by July (2021), the job could have started in October 2021. "But now we have lost another year," admits an Oil India source.

"Any company needs four months to mobilise, and then in May (2022), we have the (monsoon) rains and state elections."