India to Award Exploration Blocks by March

NEW DELHI (Dow Jones Newswires), Dec. 5, 2011

India expects to award the oil and gas exploration blocks it auctioned earlier this year to successful bidders by March 2012, a senior oil ministry official said Monday.

The South Asian nation had received bids for 33 of 34 exploration blocks auctioned in its ninth bidding round in March. The government was to evaluate the bids and award the blocks within three months, and the entire process, including the signing of contracts, was expected to complete within four months.

"There were security issues with some blocks" that led to the delay, Additional Secretary Sudhir Bhargava told reporters. He didn't elaborate.

The auctions covered eight deep-water blocks, seven shallow-water blocks off both the eastern and western coasts, and 19 land blocks in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tripura and Assam states.

India wants to fully explore its sedimentary basins by 2015, from about 65% explored so far, as it seeks to ramp up output to meet growing energy demand.

Separately, junior Oil Minister R.P.N. Singh said India seeks to raise crude oil imports from Africa and ship more fuel products there as it is fast expanding its refining capacity.

India imports about four-fifths of its crude oil needs. It imported 704,800 barrels of crude oil a day from Africa in the financial year ended March 31, 2011, or about 22% of its total imports.

The country is expanding its refinery capacity by 23% to 4.76 million barrels a day by 2013. That would increase crude oil requirement by 800,000 barrels a day, leading to higher demand for imports, Singh said at a media briefing about the two-day India Africa Hydorcarbons Conference, which starts in New Delhi on Dec. 9.

The expanded capacity would also help India increase its refined oil product exports to 70 million metric tons a year by 2014, from about 50 million tons last financial year, Singh said.

He said that India exported oil products worth about $40 billion in 2010-11 and that higher shipments would make the country one of the world's major exporters of petroleum products.

While India imports some oil products, it is a net exporter of refined oil products.

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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