Gehlot repeats Rajasthan refinery â€کmantra' to Delhi

Vol 12, PW 18 (12 Feb 09) People & Policy

Partners Cairn India (70%) and ONGC (30%) have hit a familiar speed bump as they race to get a high-tech heated pipeline in place to evacuate waxy crude from the Mangala, Bhagyam and Aishwariya (MBA) fields.

State assembly polls in December last year swept out the old BJP chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia who tried but failed to convince Cairn and ONGC to build a refinery. So when Cairn and ONGC heard what new Congress chief minister Ashok Gehlot had to say about their operations – it seemed like dأ©jأ  vu all over again! Gehlot wants the same proposed 15m t/y refinery built at Barmer and promises to move heaven and earth to make the project, deemed commercially unviable by the oil ministry and ONGC management, a reality.

“You (ONGC) take one step and we promise to take two steps forward, and together we can see the project through,â€‌ Gehlot said in Barmer on February 4 at the foundation stone laying function for the 673-km-long, 24-inch diameter pipeline from Barmer to the port of Bhogat in Gujarat, as ONGC chairman RS Sharma and oil minister Murli Deora looked on stiffly. There are also appeals to a higher authority than the oil ministry and ONGC management.

At the inauguration of HPCL’s 1054-km-long Mundra to Delhi pipeline near Jaipur on February 3, Gehlot was accompanied on stage by Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and wasted no time in repeating the refinery mantra. "After 50 years of efforts, oil has been found in Rajasthan,â€‌ he said.

“It is the aspiration of the people of Rajasthan to have an oil refinery at Barmer.â€‌ Back in 2004, then ONGC chief Subir Raha was the first to propose a refinery at Barmer.

But it was later declared economically unviable after the BJP government in Rajasthan refused ONGC any fiscal incentives.