India Sets Deadline for Partners to Resolve Oilfield Dispute

The Indian Oil Minister, Ram Naik, has give a deadline of October 31 for a resolution to the ongoing dispute of operatorship over the Tapti and Panna/Mukta offshore fields. BG Group, ONGC and Reliance each have a stake in the fields. BG purchased Enron's 30 percent stake earlier this year and also wants to assume operatorship as well. However, ONGC and Reliance do not agree. "This is a commercial dispute and I have told them to resolve it by the end of the month," Naik said in a statement after meeting BG Chief Executive Frank Chapman and Chairman Richard Giodano. "Their plea was that they should get the operatorship."

Naik said the resolution of the dispute would facilitate further development of the fields. He said gas output from the fields can be increased to 14 million cubic meters per day from eight million cubic meters. "The additional gas amounts to 10 percent of India's gas production. I am interested in more gas," Naik said. "I have conveyed my eagerness that they should come to an understanding at the earliest so that more investment can be made and gas output is increased." The oil minister feels that all three companies are equally capable of operating the fields and creating maximum value from the project.