India awards 16 exploration blocks

India round: 16 blocks awarded

India's cabinet on Friday approved the award of 16 oil and gas blocks, less than half of those offered under its ninth exploration licensing round, a government statement said.

Bids were received for 33 of 34 blocks -- eight are deep-water, seven shallow water and 19 onshore -- offered under an auction in March 2011, Reuters reported.

The statement did not name the successful companies. Previous licensing rounds were dominated by Indian state-run firms.

The cabinet rejected bids for 14 blocks, including one by Essar Oil for an onshore block, the statement said, without providing information for the remaining three blocks it received bids for.

It cancelled the award to local firms of two blocks, offered under the eighth round.

Asia's third-largest economy needs private capital for exploration, and is encouraging local firms to buy stakes in foreign oil and gas projects to meet its surging energy needs.

India imports about two-fifth of the crude it uses and is keen to quickly tap domestic reservoirs.

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