Reliance wants R&D status for Kerala Konkan blocks

Vol 10, PW 19 (25 Jan 07) Exploration & Production

Never short of bright ideas, Reliance Industries wants the government to classify the frontier Kerala Konkan basin on India’s west coast as “research and developmentâ€‌ territory.

PETROWATCH learns Reliance submitted its proposal to the DGH late last year, arguing that the unique volcanic geology of this disappointing deepwater basin needs to be understood more before serious exploration can continue. Reliance won seven exploration blocks from NELP-I to NELP-V in the Kerala Konkan basin but has not discovered oil or gas in any of them.

Unusually for a company that has experienced such success on the country’s east coast, Reliance has little to show from the Kerala Konkan basin except a run of dry holes. ONGC, which has four exploration blocks from NELP-I to NELP-V in this basin, has an even worse record.

Reliance now wants the oil ministry to “freezeâ€‌ all PSC work commitments at its Kerala Konkan blocks and re-classify the acreage for R&D. Talks are underway between Reliance and Stanford University in the US to carry out fresh “geo-modellingâ€‌ of the basin.

“Kerala Konkan is a volcanic rift basin,â€‌ says a source. “The rifting began in the Cretaceous or Jurassic era and a lot of volcanic matter has been inter layered with the sediments.

â€‌ Hundreds of metres thick, these volcanic layers hinder seismic surveys. “Seismic waves just don’t penetrate these volcanic layers,â€‌ we hear.

“This kind of setting is found is just two or three places.â€‌ Norway, Iceland and Canada have similar basins.

Reliance believes that research and development status, unfettered by the pressure of PSC work programme commitments, could lead eventually to “unlocking the potential of this basinâ€‌ for itself as well as for other operators. “It will be win-win for everybody, including the government,â€‌ we hear.

“This basin will then attract bidding interest where there’s none now.â€‌