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New regime to auction hydrocarbon assets: Secretary
Published on 17 Feb. 2010 11:15 PM IST
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India is working on a new policy to auction hydrocarbon assets for exploring oil and gas reserves on a perpetual basis, with a database being drawn up of all the country’s potential reserves, Petroleum Secretary S. Sundareshan has said. “The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons is working on what is called a national data repository -- a database of our potential oil and gas assets. This should be ready in the next four-five months,” the secretary said. “Then we will have a new policy, an open acreage system. Oil and gas blocks will then be on offer through the year and not based on rounds. But I’m not assigning a time frame,” Sundareshan told IANS in his first substantive interview since he took charge Feb 1. “The next round of bids may be the last under the existing licensing policy,” he said, referring to the upcoming ninth round of auctions under what is called the new exploration licensing policy. In the existing regime -- where eight rounds of auctions have taken place so far -- only a limited number of oil and gas blocks are identified and offered for the domestic and global companies to bid. In the proposed new regime, called the open acreage licensing system, a database of all such blocks will be made available in the public domain and a company can approach and bid for a particular block anytime during the year. “The choice of selecting a block for auction will be with the investor -- and not with the government,” the petroleum secretary said, adding a great deal of effort was being put in to create the national data repository. “This should accelerate exploration and production our hydrocarbon acreage.” According to Sundareshan, the latest round of auctions was actually encouraging, given the global slowdown that had eaten into the bottomlines of several global oil and gas majors, as the country attracted bids for 30 out of 70 blocks on offer. “We will sign the agreements for these blocks shortly.” The total committed investment during the first seven rounds under the new exploration licensing policy has been around $10 Billion, while the same under the eighth round is to the tune of $1.34 billion. Speaking about his own priorities as the new secretary for petroleum and natural gas, Sundareshan said he would hope to “resolve once and for all” the issue over pricing of transport and cooking fuels for oil marketing companies. This apart, he said, the oil ministry will also come out with a comprehensive policy on availability and pricing of natural gas not only from the Krishna-Godavari basin, but also future discoveries. “Self sufficiency in oil and gas is something no one in this ministry, at least, can ignore. This will be an important goal. A difficult goal but we must work towards this. There is no choice.”

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