India to Invite Bids for New Oil, Gas Blocks by April

NEW DELHI, Dec 19, 2006 (Dow Jones Newswires)

The Indian government will invite bids from domestic and overseas companies by April 2007 to commercially develop new oil and natural gas exploration blocks, a senior government official close to the developments said Tuesday.

"We plan to offer around 55 blocks. These will be located both offshore and onshore," the official told Dow Jones Newswires.

"The government will finalize by February the exact number of blocks for which bids will be invited," said the official.

The government will invite bids for the exploration blocks under the seventh round of the country's New Exploration Licensing Policy, or NELP-VII.

In NELP's sixth round, the Indian government received 165 bids from domestic and foreign companies in September for 52 oil and gas exploration blocks.

The official said the government will award the blocks to successful bidders of NELP-VI in January.

So far, India has awarded 110 exploration blocks to bidders under five NELP rounds to shore up domestic oil and gas production.

The blocks were awarded through an international competitive bidding process.

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

Natural gas available commercially in the country is at present about 90 million cubic meters a day, which is only sufficient to meet 60% of domestic demand.

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