India to Invite Bids for New Oil, Gas Blocks Feb 24

NEW DELHI, Feb 10, 2006 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex)

The Indian government will invite bids from domestic and foreign companies Feb. 24 to develop 55 new oil and natural gas exploration blocks, a senior official of India's upstream regulatory body, Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, said Friday.

"The bids will be invited for developing 30 offshore blocks and 25 onland blocks," Director General of Hydrocarbons V.K. Sibal told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview.

Sibal said that on the same day the government will invite separately bids for developing 10 coalbed methane blocks in the country.

While the bids for oil and gas blocks will be invited under the sixth round of India's New Exploration Licensing Policy, the bids for coalbed methane blocks will be invited under CBM-III, or the third round of government's coalbed methane exploration policy.

"The bids for NELP-VI will close on Sept. 15, while the CBM-III bid closing date will be June 30," said Sibal.

Sibal said the government will hold roadshows to showcase the NELP-VI blocks in New Delhi (March 10), London (March 20-21), Houston (March 23-24), Perth (March 30-31), Kuala Lumpur (April 5-6), Dubai (April 23-24), Calgary (June 14-15), and Rio de Janeiro (June 19-20).

As well, he said roadshows to showcase the CBM-III blocks will be held in New Delhi (March 3), Houston (March 23-24), Brisbane (March 28-29), and Calgary (June 16).

"We are expecting a good response to our twin offers from the global oil and gas majors," said Sibal.

The government previously awarded 110 oil and gas blocks, both offshore and onshore, since 1999 to companies via international competitive bidding under five rounds of NELP to shore up static domestic petroleum output.

At around 33 million metric tons a year, India's crude oil production has stagnated over the past three years. Also, India's gas output, at about 90 million cubic meters a day, meets only around 55% of domestic demand.

When the government first offered its coalbed methane exploration policy announced in April 2001, it signed eight contracts for the exploration and production of CBM in the country.

In the second round in 2003, the Indian government received 14 bids for eight coalbed methane blocks.

Coalbed methane is primarily methane gas, which occurs in its natural state in coal or lignite bed seams. CBM is expected to supplement conventional sources of natural gas.

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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