Govt may offer up to 60% stake in PSUs oil fields to private cos

23 Oct 2017 9:12 AM GMT

India is world's 3rd largest crude importer, buys 80% of its supplies from overseas

India plans to offer stakes of up to 60 per cent in oil and gas fields owned by state energy companies that are already under production to private firms, said five government and company sources with knowledge of the matter. The government is making the decision after failing to draw investment from global oil majors in new fields.

The plan would boost India's domestic oil and gas output and would meet Prime Minister NarendraModi's target to reduce oil imports by 10 per cent by 2022. However, the plan could reduce profits of state-owned companies.

India is the world's third-largest crude importer, buying 80 per cent of its supplies from overseas. The sales plan would affect so-called "nomination blocks" or fields handed to state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Oil India. The fields are located both onshore and offshore, according to the sources. The Directorate General of Hydrocarbon (DGH), a unit of the oil ministry, has suggested these state companies form joint ventures with private firms, including foreign majors that have long eyed these fields, the sources said.

The Cabinet might accept the new policy by December, said one of the sources, a government official. The Directorate General of Hydrocarbon has also proposed the state-owned companies enact technical tie-ups with private firms, offering to give them an assured rate of return if the output increases beyond a certain level, the five sources said.

After the discovery of the Bombay High oilfields in 1974 and Bassein gas fields in 1976, ONGC has not been able to bring any new major fields into production in the last three decades. India has failed to draw interest from global oil majors in licensing rounds since 1990 even though the fiscal terms were eased. However, Royal Dutch Shell and BP later bought stakes from firms that had won drilling rights.

Another of the sources, an Oil and Natural Gas Corporation executive, said that the government's move to invite private firms in the mature oil fields will impact their long-term plans. "We look at the blocks from a long-term basis... internally, the company is not keen on the move as it can disrupt the current planning and production targets over the long term," the executive said, speaking on the condition of anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to journalists.

A third source, also with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, said that the company would prefer to share revenue with the new partners for the incremental production but not for the entire output from the fields. A spokesman for ONGC declined to comment. DGH Director General Atanu Chakraborty too declined to make any comment.

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