DGH is already planning another NELP round

Vol 13, PW 24 (20 May 10) People & Policy

Ludicrous it might sound, but India is already planning to launch its next upstream hydrocarbon licensing round, NELP-IX, despite the fact it hasn’t yet signed PSCs for the last round: NELP-VIII.

You might wonder why India is bothering to launch another round when the last one was widely recognised to have been a monumental flop: on the bid deadline of October 12 last year only 36 of 70 exploration blocks in NELP-VIII received any interest. No one at the DGH can tell us when the PSCs for those 36 will be signed, or when the dispute over seven CBM blocks from the 10 offered in the parallel CBM-IV round will be resolved.

Despite this, a well-placed source tells us the DGH has identified “broad areas” onshore and offshore India which could be offered in NELP-IX. More, it has sent details for approval to various ministries, including the ministries of defence, environment, external affairs, and the department of space.

“Once clearance comes in,” says our source, “the DGH will begin carving up the blocks.” Other preparations include inviting comments and suggestions from E&P companies on how NELP-IX should be run; the first deadline for suggestions on April 16 was extended to April 30 after a request from the upstream lobby group Association of Oil and Gas Operators (AOGO).

When contacted, AOGO sources confirm its members raised several key concerns about NELP-IX. “Our working group has met and reviewed all inputs (received from members),” says this source.

“We’ll be sending a composite list to the DGH in the next few days.” AOGO wants clarity on how blocks will be classified, and the decision-making process leading to awards.

DGH sources add that once AOGO has submitted all its queries, the DGH will “organise a discussion” to generate further feedback. “Our plan,” he says, “is to complete this entire process by end-May.

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