One-fifth of NELP blocks still lack clearances

Nearly a fifth of the blocks the government had awarded for exploration of oil and gas in various rounds since 1999 to domestic and overseas firms are stuck for want of defence and environmental clearances, the Rajya Sabha was told on Wednesday.

The government had in nine rounds of the New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP) awarded 256 blocks to domestic and overseas explorers. Of these, 52 blocks are stuck for want of clearances, setting back plans to expedite exploration of oil and gas and cut the import bill.

"Presently, 52 blocks awarded under various rounds of NELP bidding are pending for clearance by different organisations such as ministry of defence, ministry of environment & forests, international boundary disputes and state governments," minister of state for petroleum and natural gas R P N Singh told the house in a written reply.

Of the blocks awaiting clearances, 22 are of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and 15 belong to Reliance Industries Ltd, he said.

Australian BHP Billiton's five blocks, three of Cairn India, two of Santos International and one each of British Gas, BP, Focus Energy, ENI of Italy and Jubilant Oil and Gas are also stuck.

"Out of 52 blocks, clearances are pending in respect of 43 blocks from the ministry of defence due to deference related issues, three blocks from the ministry of environment and forests due to environmental issues, two due to maritime boundary issues and four from state governments of Nagaland and Gujarat," he said.