Pandey wants foreign companies to bid in NELP-VIII

Vol 12, PW 22 (09 Apr 09) People & Policy

Oil secretary RS Pandey (picture, centre) has made an impassioned plea to global E&P operators to bid in NELP-VIII, announced today (Thursday, April 9) at Shastri Bhawan, seat of the Indian oil ministry.

“We will ask them (foreign majors) why they have not bid till now,â€‌ said Pandey. DGH boss VK Sibal (picture, far right) immediately seconded Pandey and said mainly American companies had stayed away from earlier NELP rounds.

“They want producing or discovered fields,â€‌ said Sibal. “Chevron and Exxon wanted to buy a stake in GSPC’s (offshore KG Basin) discovery; Chevron was also talking to Reliance for a stake in D6.

Shell and Exxon’s chiefs told me once they regretted missing the D6 opportunity.â€‌ Sibal said BP, StatoilHydro and Petrobras are good examples of companies already here, adding that the DGH is organising a meeting with investors in Washington on May 11 and 12 to attract the majors.

At 11.15am, Pandey unveiled the Notice Inviting Offer and launched the official NELP-VIII website ( auctioning 70 blocks. Before Pandey could begin, Neelam Kapur of the Press Information Bureau interrupted him to instruct journalists to switch off their phones or put them on silent.

“Don’t use them even on silent mode,â€‌ she said. Pandey began a 30-minute speech introducing NELP-VIII and said around $10bn has been invested in India during successive NELP rounds till March 31, 2008.

Sibal contradicted the figure, saying the investment is around $9bn. Pandey said Reliance’s D6 gasfield and Cairn India’s (pre-NELP) discoveries in Barmer were good reasons to invest in India.

“NELP has cleared any doubt about India’s prospectivity,â€‌ he said. Included in the 70 blocks are 10 S-Type or small blocks for companies with no E&P experience.

Out of 24 deepwater blocks on offer, a surprising 18 are in and around the Andaman Islands. “Andaman will be the next Gulf of Mexico or KG Basin,â€‌ predicted Pandey.

Sibal expressed his inability to offer more KG blocks. “Most KG blocks have been awarded,â€‌ he said.

“I can’t create blocks when none are there.â€‌