India offers 11 oil and gas blocks in 5th bid round

India offers 11 oil and gas blocks in 5th bid round

India on Wednesday announced the opening of the fifth oil and gas block bid round, offering 11 areas for bidding on revamped fiscal terms.

So far, the government has awarded 94 blocks under the Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP) regime in a short time span of two and a half years.

These 94 blocks cover an exploratory area of about 1,36,800 square kilometers over 16 Indian Sedimentary Basins, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) said in a statement.

"In continuation of its aggressive acceleration of exploration and production activities and adhering to the prescribed timelines, the Government has now launched the Bid Round-V for International Competitive Bidding," it said. "In this bid round 11 blocks, with an area of approximately 19,800 sq km are on offer for bidding to the investor community."

The last bid round saw just eight bids coming in for seven blocks on offer. According to the DGH, seven onland blocks were offered in the fourth round of Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) under HELP regime, with an area of about 18,510 sq km. State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) walked away with all the seven oil and gas blocks on offer.

OALP-IV was the first round on revamped terms approved in February 2019. Unlike previous rounds where blocks were awarded to companies offering a maximum share of oil and gas to the government, blocks in little or unexplored category-II and III basins are now awarded to companies offering to do maximum exploration programme.

Bidding for OALP-V will close on March 18, the DGH said.

The 11 blocks under OALP Round-V are spread across 8 Sedimentary Basins and include eight on land blocks (six in Category-I Basin and one each in Category II and III Basins), two Shallow Water blocks (one each in Category-I and II Basins) and one Ultra Deep Water block (Category I Basin).

"It is expected that OALP Round V would generate immediate exploration work commitment of around USD 400-450 million," the DGH statement said. "An area of 1,36,800 sq km has already been awarded under OALP Bid Round I, II, III and IV. These OALP Bid Round-V Blocks would add further 19,800 sq km. Overall Exploration Acreage of India would then increase to 236,600 sq km."

The DGH said HELP, which adopts the revenue sharing contract model, is a giant step towards improving the 'Ease of Doing Business' in the Indian Exploration and Production (E&P) sector.

"It comes with attractive and liberal terms like reduced royalty rates, no oil cess, marketing, and pricing freedom, round the year bidding, freedom to investors for carving out blocks of their interest, a single licence to cover both conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon resources, exploration permission during the entire contract period, and an easy, transparent and swift bidding and awarding process."

Under OALP, companies are allowed to carve out areas they want to explore oil and gas in. Companies can put in an expression of interest for any area throughout the year but such interests are accumulated thrice in a year. The areas sought are then put on auction.

The fifth cycle of submitting EoIs closed on November 30, 2019, and was followed by the sixth cycle that began on December 1, 2019, and will last till March 31, 2020. It would be followed by the 7th cycle from April 1, 2020, till July 31, 2020.

Of the 94 blocks awarded in the first four rounds of OALP, Vedanta has won the maximum at 51. Oil India Ltd has got 21 blocks and ONGC another 17.

"All 11 blocks in OALP-V are based on Expressions of Interest received during EoI Window-V from 16th May 2019 to 30th November 2019," the DGH said. 

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