Finance, oil ministries get powers to auction oil, gas blocks

In a thrust to ease of doing business initiative, the Union Cabinet on Wednesday delegated its powers to ministers of finance and petroleum to award oil and gas blocks to bidders in the auction of 55 exploration blocks, closing on May 2.

Until now, only the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister had the power to award a block for exploration and production of oil and gas.

"In line with the government initiative of ease of doing business, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for delegating the powers to Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Finance Minister to award the blocks/contract areas to successful bidders," an official statement said.

The two ministers will approve the bids based on the recommendations of a panel of secretaries, called the Empowered Committee of Secretaries (ECS).

In the first round bid, 55 blocks having an area of 59,282 sq km, spread across 11 states are being auctioned. The bidding process is being handled through a secured and dedicated e-bidding portal.

Made easy

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs also eased norms for public sector Coal India for extraction of coal-bed methane, eliminating the need for obtaining a licence from the petroleum ministry.

"It will expedite the exploration and exploitation of CBM, enhance the availability of natural gas and reduce the gap in demand and supply of natural gas.

"The increased development activities for exploration and exploitation of CBM gas reserves in-and-around the block will generate economic activities, which in turn has potential to create employment opportunities in CBM operations and in the industries," an official statement said after the meeting.

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