Cairn Energy To Bid in India's Upcoming Exploration Round

Cairn Energy said it will submit bids for one or more of the 27 blocks under the third round of India's New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP-III). The bids were part of Cairn's continued focus on India and Bangladesh, chief executive Bill Gammell said. "It's likely we will go into the NELP because of the specific knowledge we have, but whether or not we will be successful is another question," he said in a statement. India has offered nine deep water blocks, seven shallow water blocks and seven onshore blocks in the licensing round, which is expected to close on August 28. Five of the blocks were offered for the first time, 16 were resubmitted with fresh data while six had areas modified.

Cairn operates an oilfield off India's east coast near the southern city of Madras and also has exploration interests off the west coast.

Despite success in India and Bangladesh, Gammell said it was unlikely Cairn would venture into potential blocks in neighboring Pakistan and Sri Lanka. "It's unlikely at the moment. Looking at our track record of nine discoveries out of 11 in India, we really have a competitive edge there," Gammell said. "The acreage we have in India is also huge, so we've got our hands full in our existing lots."

Pakistan and Sri Lanka have announced plans to offer stakes in blocks to foreign investors, with Pakistan expected to open bidding for nine oil and gas fields later in April. Sri Lanka, believed to possess oil and gas reserves in its western seas, was finalizing a policy document and a petroleum resources act.

Gammell said Cairn was also unlikely to explore in other parts of Asia. "Our core focus is India and Bangladesh and we're concentrating on that at the moment. There are no new target areas we're looking at," he said. Gammell said they had explored the possibility of going into China before but did not have the competitive edge to make the move feasible.