State-owned ONGC and Oil India Ltd alongside private sector Vedanta Ltd Tuesday walked away with almost all of the oil blocks auctioned in the latest licensing round as part of the government's effort to raise domestic production.
The winners of Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) Round II and III, which closed earlier this year, signed exploration and production contracts with the government at a function here Tuesday.
Speaking on the occassion, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said more production of oil and gas is priority of Modi-2.0 government as it looks to meet its rising energy demand of fast growing economy.
"There is possibility of $1 billion in OALP-II and III," he said.
Oil India Ltd signed up for the 12 out of 32 oil and gas exploration blocks it won in the twin rounds that ran parallelly because OALP-II was delayed. Vedanta Ltd walked away with 10 and Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) got eight blocks.
Reliance Industries and its British partner BP Plc signed a contract for the sole KG basin gas they had bid, while Indian Oil Corp (IOC) too got one block.
Reliance-BP combine outbid ONGC in one Krishna Godavari basin block in the Bay of Bengal. This is an area that ONGC had previously relinquished and is said to hold natural gas prospects.
According to the DGH, OIL won 6 out of the 14 blocks on offer in OALP-II, while Vedanta walked away with five. ONGC, Reliance-BP and IOC won one block each.
In OALP-III, ONGC won 7 blocks while OIL got 6 and Vedanta the remaining five.
Bidding for 14 blocks on offer in the OALP round-II and another 18 oil and gas blocks as well as 5 coal-bed methane (CBM) blocks on offer in OALP-III closed on May 15. No bid was received for any of the CBM blocks.
Reliance-BP had made their first bid in eight years when they sought an area that previously was held by ONGC, sources said.
When the government in July 2017 allowed companies to carve out blocks of their choice with a view to bringing about 2.8 million sq km of unexplored area in the country under exploration, Reliance-BP sought the KG area containing the discoveries.
Under the new policy, areas sought by any company are put on auction with the initiator or the company that originally carved out the block, getting a 5 point advantage.
Reliance-BP had last jointly bid for a KG deepwater block in the 8th bid round under previous licensing policy in 2008. They, however, gave up the block after not finding any commercially exploitable oil and gas reserves.
In the following year, Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance on its own bid for six blocks in the ninth round of New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) but did not win any block.
Sources said at the close of bidding for the current round on May 15, ONGC had put in bids for 20 out of the 32 blocks on offer, while OIL made bids for 16 blocks.
Vedanta, which had walked away with 41 out of the 55 blocks offered in OALP-I last year, bid for 30 areas.
Indian Oil Corp (IOC), GAIL (India) and SunPetro bid for two blocks each, they said.
BP had more than a decade back entered the country, buying 30 per cent stake in Reliance's 21 oil and gas exploration blocks for USD 7.2 billion. All but a couple of blocks have since been relinquished.
NELP has since been replaced by Hydrocarbon Exploration Licensing Policy (HELP) under which OALP bids round have been held.
Under the new policy, called open acreage licensing policy, companies are allowed to put in an expression of interest or EoI for prospecting of oil and gas in any area that is presently not under any production or exploration licence.
The EoIs can be put in at any time of the year but they are accumulated twice annually.
The blocks or areas that receive EoIs at the end of a cycle are put up for auction.
The two windows of accumulating EoIs end on May 15 and November 15 every year. EoIs accumulated till May 15 are supposed to be put on auction by June 30 and those in the second window by December 31.
But, a delay in the offering of blocks meant that OALP-II and OALP-III ran concurrently. In OALP-1, Vedanta walked away with 41 out of 55 blocks bid out. Oil India won nine blocks while ONGC managed to win just two.
Blocks are awarded to the company which offers the highest share of oil and gas to the government as well as commits to do maximum exploration work by way of shooting 2D and 3D seismic survey and drilling exploration wells.
The new policy replaced the old system of government carving out areas and bidding them out.
It guarantees marketing and pricing freedom and moves away from production sharing model of previous rounds to a revenue-sharing model, where companies offering the maximum share of oil and gas to the government are awarded the block.