State-run ONGC swept India’s largest ever auction of oil and gas blocks that saw poor response from private and overseas firms, a trend that was variously attributed to the Ambani gas dispute and the Oil Ministry’s policies.
Reliance Industries, which had won 45 blocks in the previous auction rounds, did not bid for any oil and gas blocks and made a largely symbolic bid for one coal bed methane (CBM) block.
Of the 70 blocks offered in the 8th round of the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP), only 36 attracted bids with ONGC and partners bidding for a maximum 25.
Oil Secretary R S Pandey described the response as “good” saying globally the economic slowdown and credit crunch has seen poorer response. Hydrocarbon rich nations like Brazil could manage bids for only 54 out of the 130 blocks offered while Algeria awarded only four out of 15 areas offered.
He refuted Anil Ambani Group’s allegations that his ministry’s interference in marketing of gas was responsible for the poor response. “Since NELP-I, the kind of marketing freedom or the lack of it has been broadly the same.”
“We have done better than many,” Pandey said, adding that Uruguay this year got bids for just two of the 11 blocks offered, Indonesia got bids for five out of 16 blocks offered, Iceland could not award a single block while Norway managed bids for 35 out of 67 areas offered.
“Now we will process it. In all of three months, the process of finalising the award will be completed,” he said.
Only four foreign firms including BHP Biliton of Australia, BG Group and Cairn India bid for offshore blocks.