ONGC Begins Drilling Program in West Bengal Next Month

ONGC will begin its search for reserves along West Bengal's coast and in the Sundarbans in August. The state-owned oil company has so far drilled at 48 sites across West Bengal, but is yet to hit commercially viable reserves. The last time ONGC drilled for oil in the state was seven years ago.

Offshore exploration will take place in the Sunderbans, the world's largest delta, and the Moogberia and Contai areas by the Bay of Bengal. "Spudding along the Bay of Bengal begins next month. Exploration in the Sunderbans is also likely to start around the same time," an ONGC official said. The total cost of the exploration work is estimated at Rs 4 billion. ONGC has identified 1,100 sq km of area in the Sunderbans for exploration. It hopes to finish spudding in two years.

The company has started moving its heavy equipment and drilling machinery into Moogberia and completed building a bridge in the area to facilitate movement of its men and materials. While states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tripura have been identified as 'asset zones' and some other areas as 'support service zones,' ONGC identifies West Bengal as a 'basin zone.'

ONGC stopped seismic surveys, to determine the presence of oil or gas, in the Bengal Basin project in 2000, indicating its plans to wind up operations in the state. But new findings have forced ONGC to rescind its decision.