India to search for oil in Canada's oil sands

India is likely to ink a a multi-billion-dollar deal with Canada to search for oil in the oilsands of Canada's Alberta province.

The Canadian news service, Canwest quoted Indian petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan as saying that India planned to sign the deal to hunt for oil in Alberta's oilsands this year, and is going to ''get more actively engaged in the Canadian tar sands in the next six months.'' Srinivasan was speaking at the World Petroleum Congress in Madrid.

Srinivasan said India would `prefer to acquire assets over producing companies on a magnitude of $2 billion to $2.5 billion, for ''an economically viable size; too small an acreage may not be a commercially viable proposition.''

Alberta energy minister Mel Knight was also quoted confirming the presence of high-level delegations from India on visits to his province. ''They are very open and we have had some positive discussions about where they see the potential of doing some work in Alberta,'' Canwest quoted the minister as saying.

The report says India has been scouting for an entry into Alberta's oilsands for over two years, and was reported to be on the verge of signing a deal in April 2006 that would have marked its foray into North America. India is currently the world's fifth-largest consumer of energy, using up around four per cent of the world's energy consumption.

Oil minister Murli Deora has also said that India needs ever-increasing oil and gas reserves, both domestically and internationally, in order to sustain its economic growth that has ranged between nine and 10 per cent in recent years. He said the main focus is to enhance India's energy security, with estimates projecting a jump in production to 30 per cent over the next five years, which will still be inadequate to feed the sub-continent's economic development.

The next World Petroleum Congress is scheduled to be held in Qatar in 2011.