Mumbai: The government hopes to attract at least $4 billion of investment in oil and gas exploration in the seventh round of auction of oil blocks under New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP).
Launching the NELP-VII round, petroleum minister Murli Deora announced the offer of 57 oil and gas blocks - nine in shallow water, 19 in deep-sea and 29 inland - in NELP-VII, bids for which will close on April 11, 2008.
"This is the largest-ever offering and we are expecting good response," he said.
The government has so far awarded 162 blocks with an investment commitment totalling $8.33 billion over three phases of exploration and production. Of this, the largest commitment of $3.32 billion was received in NELP-VI where 52 out of 55 blocks on offer were sold.
About 49 oil and gas discoveries have already been made in Cambay inland, north-east coast and Krishna-Godavari deepwater areas, with reserves of 600 million tonnes.
Deora said several global players have shown interest in oil exploration in India after significant gas discoveries by Reliance Industries, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation and Cairn India.
He said steel baron Lakshmi Mittal and the BG Group of the UK along with Indian collaborators are likely to participate in the bidding.
"Licences for exploration are being awarded only through a competitive bidding system and bidders are required to compete on an equal footing with Indian and foreign companies to secure petroleum exploration licences," Deora told CNBC-TV18.
National oil companies would compete on an equal footing with international players for the 57 blocks on offer. New blocks have been introduced encompassing up to 200 km to attract small companies.
Meanwhile, the country has produced around 4.7 million standard cubic metres (MMSCM) of coalbed methane (CBM) gas till October 31 since production started on July 14, Deora said.
He was replying to a question at a meeting of the parliamentary consultative committee held on the eve of the launch of the seventh round of bidding under the NELP for auctioning hydrocarbon blocks.
The Great Eastern Energy Corporation Ltd has commenced commercial production and sale of CBM - gas extracted from coal beds - on July 14 this year from the Raniganj south block in West Bengal, he said while chairing the meeting.
"By 2015, the entire area of Indian sedimentary basins is likely to be under exploration, of which 80 per cent is targeted to be covered during the 11th plan period (2007-12)," the minister said.
After conclusion of auctioning under the sixth round of NELP, 44 per cent of the Indian sedimentary basin area are being explored, Deora said.
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The area under exploration increased four times since the introduction of the NELP regime, he added.