Oil ministry puts Indian CBM on the world map

Vol 6, PW 11 (31 Jul 02) People & Policy

AMID POMP AND ceremony, announced by half page adverts in leading national dailies, Indian officials on Friday, 26th July signed five contracts for exploration of coal bed methane at the Taj hotel in Delhi.

With this, India joins only a select few countries where CBM is exploited, among them the US, China, Australia and Britain. Two giant screens on either side of the dais ensured no one missed the proceedings.

With popping of flash bulbs from a multitude of photographers, two contracts were signed with a consortium of ONGC and IOC, two with Reliance Industries and one with Essar Oil (see PETROWATCH Database for work programmes for each of these blocks). CBM has been a long time coming to India - it's been almost 10 years since the idea was first discussed! ONGC and Essar have drilled wells in the past, but this is the first time five contracts have been signed under a global bidding process.

One contract awarded under the FIPB route was signed last year with Great Eastern Energy Corporation and two more for blocks awarded on a nomination basis are scheduled to be signed later this year with ONGC and Coal India. Indeed, oil minister Ram Naik displayed his enthusiasm for CBM when in the middle of his speech he wondered aloud when the two remaining contracts would be signed.

ONGC chairman Subir Raha promptly stood up to say all problems had been resolved and that the contracts could be signed any day. An amusing exchange followed over the exact date, with Ram Naik ending the dialogue saying he was ready to sign any time! Naik also took the opportunity to announce that a fresh CBM round was not far away.

Also present was Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister of State for Coal.