India Signs Production Sharing Deals for 52 Oil, Gas Blocks

NEW DELHI Mar 02, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswires)

The Indian government Friday signed production sharing contracts for 52 oil and natural gas exploration blocks with companies that were recently awarded the blocks after a bidding process.

"I hope all the players engaged in exploration activities would bring their best geological skill, technology and management practices to explore oil and gas in the country in an expeditious and effective manner," Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora said in a speech at the signing ceremony.

The blocks were awarded to the companies under the sixth round of the government's New Exploration Licensing Policy, or NELP-VI.

Indian state-run petroleum exploration company Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (500312.BY) was awarded 24 blocks, while seven blocks were awarded to Reliance Industries Ltd. (500325.BY). Among the foreign bidders, Australia's Santos Ltd. (STO.AU) was awarded two blocks.

The government invited bids for a total 55 onshore and offshore exploration blocks under NELP VI, of which it received bids for only 52. Bidding closed last September.

India has now awarded 162 exploration blocks to bidders under six NELP rounds to shore up domestic oil and gas production.

India currently imports 76% of the crude oil it processes, with domestic crude production stagnating around 33 million metric tons a year.

Natural gas available for commercial sale in the country is about 90 million cubic meters a day, which is only sufficient to meet 60% of the current domestic demand.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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