India has launched a sizeable offering of acreage for oil and gas exploration, with most of the blocks on offer lying offshore and in deeper waters.
Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri launched the licensing round at an event staged in Houston, Texas, this week in accordance with the India Open Acreage & Licensing Policy (OALP).
The launch was part of an Indian drive to scale up investments in the upstream sector.
The round will include 23 blocks and covering almost 220,000 square kilometres in total, according to the Indian upstream regulator, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons.
A total of 15 blocks lie in ultra-deepwaters, eight others are shallow-water acreages. The round also includes three onshore areas and — in a separate process — 16 tracts of land suitable for exploitation of coalbed methane are to be made available for bidding.
Puri said in a social media post that “there is an unprecedented interest in Indian exploration and production by global oil companies”.
India has carried out several bid rounds of OALP in the past decade, awarding multiple onshore and offshore blocks.
However, it has failed to attract the biggest international energy companies, despite offering lucrative market-set gas pricing and exploration-related incentives.
A sizeable number of OALP blocks have been taken up by state-owned giants Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Oil India Limited (OIL).
India has said it wants to attract in companies from Western nations able to bring in technical capabilities to get the most out of domestic offshore assets.
India Petroleum Secretary Pankaj Jain, while speaking in Houston, highlighted India as the destination of energy opportunities and said the latest bid round offers “ease of doing business for bidding and assured an open-door policy to resolve any issue faced by the industry”.
“India wants to be the new destination for global energy players. Oil producers worldwide are eager to gain a foothold in India, where fuel demand is expected to keep rising as the country’s economy grows,” he noted.
Jain said that India’s oil consumption or demand is expected to rise to almost 3.3 billion barrels annually by 2040 from about 1.6 billion barrels this year.
The Indian government awarded another 31 contracts for oil and gas developments last month through the third Discovered Small Fields (DSF-3) competitive bidding round, in what was the country’s largest-ever offering of areas with known oil and gas accumulations.
The nation, which imports more than 80% of its crude oil requirements, envisages reducing its dependence on imported crude oil in the coming years by at least 10%.