Vol 2, PW 22 (11 Nov 98) Midstream & Downstream

Tripura is on the look-out for a foreign oil major to join hands in a $95m project to convert natural gas into diesel, naptha, and wax.

Pabitra Kar, industry minister in the left-wing coalition government of Tripura, tells this report a project feasibility report has been prepared by Engineers India (EIL). Kar said Tripura wants an established oil company to join the regional government in the project.

"Our Industrial Development Corporation will keep a small stake; but an Indian group - government or private - can join in. However, we prefer a multinational company (MNC) to come forward", Kar tells this report, "This would make the project technologically more efficient".

Kar said Indian private sector oil and gas companies were still much behind multinationals in technology and managerial efficiency. He admitted that the small size of the project would discourage some MNCs, but added that a stake in the project could give them a strategic foothold in Tripura, which is surrounded on three sides by gas-rich zones of Bangladesh.

Kar, a Marxist, said Tripura has plans for three other gas-based projects: a Rs 1,145 cr ($272m) Urea complex; a 1,305 cr ($310m) Urea/PVC complex; and a Rs 987 cr ($234m) Urea-Methanol complex. Tripura currently produces an average of 2m cubic metres of a day (cm/d) of natural gas, with a high methane content.

By 2001, this should go up to 4.5m cm/d. Gas consumption in Tripura is just 0.45m cm/d, mainly for power projects.

*Richard Celeste, United States ambassador to India, was on a recent visit to Tripura, Assam and Nagaland to scout for investment opportunities for US companies. Celeste told this report he was certain US companies - which have come into neighbouring Bangladesh - "would love to invest in Tripura, particularly in gas-based, rubber or cane-based industries".

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