US lobbies against ONGC award to LARGE

Vol 6, PW 23 (29 Jan 03) Exploration & Production

TEXAS-BASED Veritas Geophysical Corporation has been unable to convince ONGC to cancel a controversial 7,000-sq km seismic survey contract awarded to Russian company Laboratory of Regional Dynamics, despite the personal intervention of US ambassador Robert Blackwill.

Last month Blackwill wrote to oil minister Ram Naik on behalf ofVeritas, learns PETROWATCH. "I am concerned that the award of the contract to LARGE may have violated the fair and transparent competitive bid process that is required by Indian law," writes Blackwill.

"Veritas has written to the chairman of ONGC and to your ministry to seek redress, but has not yet received an explanation of the award process." Blackwill wants Naik's "help in understanding how LARGE, previously disqualified, could be awarded the contract, and why Veritas, the apparent lowest bidder in an open and transparent process, was not selected for the contract award." Contacted by PETROWATCH, ONGC stands by its decision to select LARGE. Even the oil ministry is now openly supporting ONGC.

"ONGC has informed us that the commercial bid of Veritas was 31% higher than the last procurement price," writes the ministry in a letter to G.C Gill, president the International Association of Geophysical Contractors and a vocal supporter of the Veritas bid.

"(The) Executive Purchase Committee of ONGC found the bid of LARGE to be technically and commercially acceptable and much less than Veritas (and) it took the decision to award the tender to LARGE in the best commercial interests of ONGC."