British exploration major Cairn Energy Search Ltd (CESL) is to begin a survey in Bihar's Ganges basin for oil and natural gas in the next two to three weeks, the first such exploration in the state.
"The much-awaited work for oil exploration in Bihar would start in January. Everything is ready for an aero magnetic survey, which would be followed by other surveys and database collection," Energy Minister Vijendra Prasad Yadav said on Saturday.
CESL and its sister concern, Cairn Energy Search India Ltd, which has been given a seven-year license, will begin its operations in the Ganges basin, which comprises 13 districts spread over 15,500 sq km. The Edinburgh-based CESL had proposed the project three years ago but it got delayed due to various reasons.
Official sources said the exploration project had got clearance from all central ministries, including defence, petroleum, civil aviation and atomic energy as well as the Geological Survey of India.
The CESL has been taking help from a Canadian company to conduct the survey. A specially designed and high-tech airplane was hired from Canada for this.
"The airplane is currently in Rajasthan and likely to reach Patna in the second week of this month," he said.
After the survey, CESL would conduct gravity surveys in selected areas. It would go for soil digging at select places to collect more data. It is likely to submit the survey report by March.
The central and state governments have been eying Bihar's potential oil and gas resources for several years. India imports some 70 per cent of its crude oil needs.
According to independent estimates, reserves in the Ganges basin, known locally as Purnea basin, could be as high as 465 million tonnes of crude and natural gas.
Experts say the reserves can be tapped after drilling up to 4,400 metres. The government will get 10 per cent royalty for every tonne extracted.