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Security stymies ONGC

Public sector Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has run into a peculiar problem on its own turf despite being a state agency.

business Updated: Jan 10, 2010 21:14 IST
Anupama Airy

Public sector Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has run into a peculiar problem on its own turf despite being a state agency.

The Department of Space (DoS) has raised security concerns over its exploration work being carried out with Tata Petrodyne Ltd and British major Cairn Energy on the east coast.

The DoS has told the Petroleum Ministry that a major chunk of the PR-OSN-2003/1 exploration block where the corporate trio are carrying out seismic surveys fall under a prohibited zone notified by the Satish Dhawan Space Centre linked to the Sriharikota space station.

The DoS has asked the Petroleum Ministry to withdraw permission to the Cairn-led consortium to conduct ore seismic surveys in the area.

The Sriharikota centre is the main satellite and rocket launch base of the Indian Space Research Organisation and is located 100 km north of Chennai in Andhra Pradesh.

“We are also concerned as the radio frequency used by the survey vessel (deployed to carry out seismic activities) will interfere with our ground segment and other facilities at SDSC,” the DoS said in a recent letter.

“The area near the east coast of SDSC, SHAR (an old acronym for the Sriharikota Research Centre) is a prohibitive zone and any activity in that area by external agencies is prohibited,” it said.

Allotted to the Cairn-led consortium of ONGC and Tata Petrodyne under the sixth round of NELP (New Exploration Licensing Programme) bidding, the exploration block is located in the Palar Basin in shallow water up to 400 meter depth and is estimated to hold recoverable reserves of about 30 million barrels of oil.

Confirming the development, a senior Petroleum Ministry official said, “The JV led by Cairn as its operator has the permission from the Petroleum Ministry to carry out 3D seismic surveys in the exploration block.”

However, the space department has objected to this and has even asked the ministry to “consult Department of Space in future before granting permission for exploration in the prohibited zone…”