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India to offer 55 oil, gas blocks for bidding

India plans to offer 55 oil and gas blocks for bidding next month after making sweeping changes in the earlier proposed bid.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2006 17:31 IST

India plans to offer 55 oil and gas blocks for bidding next month after making sweeping changes in the earlier proposed bid evaluation criteria that virtually disqualified all major domestic companies including state-owned ONGC and Reliance Industries.

The absence of big global names in the earlier rounds due to aggressive bidding by ONGC and Reliance, had prompted the then Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar to suggest a technical criteria that lay heavy emphasis on experience of the bidder and previous discoveries - a parameter on which domestic major look dwarfed in front of multinationals.

Sources said required experience for bidding for highly prospective deepsea blocks has been halved to 5-years and discoveries made in past five years would now be parameters for evaluation instead of earlier proposed three years.

ONGC and Reliance - India's only firms with deepsea operatorship experience - have ventured into the highly risky deepwater 5-6 years ago and made oil and gas discoveries in early part of their campaign. Compared to this, multinationals like British Petroleum, ExxonMobil, British Gas and Petrobras have been in the business for much longer period and have made discoveries in the recent past in some or the other acerage that spans the globe.

Besides, reserve accretion through acquisitions has also been removed, sources said. Global majors are more active in mergers and acquisitions and, thus, would have earned more points for the reserves they bought rather than explored.

Sources said off the 55 blocks to be offered, 24 would be deepsea, 6 shallow offshore and 25 onlands. Bidding opens on February 28 and closes on September 15.

First Published: Feb 02, 2006 17:31 IST