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Raha regrets 'distortion' of facts

Before demitting office ONGC chairman, hit out at the Oil ministry saying 'truth should not be drowned in prejudice'.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2006 12:24 IST

Pained at what he termed as 'deliberate distortion' of ONGC's performance, Subir Raha, before demitting office as the company's chairman, had hit out at the Oil ministry saying "truth should not be drowned in prejudice".

Raha shot off a letter to Petroleum Minister Murli Deora on May 23, a day before his 5-year term ended unceremoniously, contesting sweeping allegations made by former minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, whose adverse comments were cited as the reasons for denial of extension to the high profile CEO.

Referring to allegations made by the previous minister in a presentation to Prime Minister's Office on December 16, 2005, he said "overwhelmingly, information was suppressed or distorted or even invented to raise these allegations."

"It is disheartening that the unprecedented effort since 2001 to achieve improvements in every aspect of ONGC, with unwavering focus on E&P, has been subjected to disparaging opinions based on deliberate distortions," Raha wrote giving a 14-page point-by-point rebuttal to each allegation.

"...Truth should not be drowned in prejudice," he said.

While Aiyar could not be immediately contacted for comments, an ailing Raha did not take calls.

Mumbai High field output had fell to 218,000 barrels per day in 1999-00. "During 2001-05, the decline was arrested and production raised to 270,000 bpd on sustained basis. Without this massive effort, production would have come down to 150,000 bpd in 2006-07 by natural decline alone," Raha wrote.

The letter listed efforts to bring back Assam, Ahmedabad and Mehsana fields and termed it as "canard" statements that ONGC's resources were being diverted to downstream refining and power projects or overseas oil property acquisition.

"Out of Rs 31,243 crore total Capex in last five years, Rs 1,475 crore (4.7 per cent) was spent on downstream business. Out of this, Rs 1,355 crore (4.3 per cent), was spent to acquire 72 per cent equity and exclusive management control of MRPL at the instance of the Oil Ministry," Raha said adding every single investment was made with approval of the Board, which had nominees of ministeries of Petroleum and Finance.

The letter, a copy of which was also marked to Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary, said natural decline of 6-8 per cent per year had been arrested in most fields and ONGC brought one offshore and 14 onshore fields into production since 2001.

"Having stabilised production against natural decline, ONGC has achieved net increase in oil production from 519,260 bdp in 2001-02 to 556,575 bpd in 2004-05 (production in 2005-06 fell because of accident at Mumbai High), and the positive trend will be sustained to reached 600,000 bdp in 2009-10," he said.

On ONGC's low success ratio, he said the company followed Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) code and reported a discovery only when "for the first time, clean, cased hole flow of hydrocarbons at stabilized rate and pressure in commercial quantitieshas been obtained."

ONGC earned the dubious distinction because it followed stricter and conservative approach and not the oil regulator DGH's definition of "finding a deposit of petroleum hitherto unknown, which can flow to the surface and be measured by conventional testing."