Cairn impatient for Gauri development approval

Vol 7, PW 2 (09 Apr 03) Exploration & Production

IT CAN be an uphill struggle to get official approvals in India, even for a company like Cairn Energy with its string of successes in the country's E&P sector.

A case in point in the Gauri gasfield, which sits within Cairn's offshore Gujarat exploration block CB-OS/2. Cairn submitted a $66.6m four-well development programme for Gauri early this year - soon after it settled its row over gas migration to the adjacent Hazira gasfield owned by Niko and Gujarat Petroleum - but it hasn't yet received the approvals needed for it to begin development drilling.

Time is running out and Cairn is getting impatient. So much so that Cairn CEO Bill Gammell has taken the unusual step of writing to Shastri Bhawan asking that the Gauri approval process be speeded up.

"This approval is urgently required in order to allow the partners to commit to drilling the four planned development wells in Gauri during the monsoon, using the drilling rig Ensco-54, which is currently drilling the Lakshmi oil appraisal wells in the same block." Ensco-54 began drilling at CB-OS/2 in February this year to carry out exploratory, appraisal and development drilling. Adds Gammell: "This will result in considerable cost savings on account of mob/demob and also ensure that production commences in Q1 2004 - four months earlier than would otherwise be the case." Gammell stresses that "full development approval" is essential so that "fast track development" of the Gauri gasfield can take place.

Mystery however surrounds the exact whereabouts of the file on Gauri. Contacted by PETROWATCH, the DGH tells us: "It is no longer pending with us." Small comfort for Cairn: "We still have not received official approval." Cairn estimates the four development wells at Gauri could recover 81bn cubic feet of the total 114.2bn cubic feet of gas in-place.