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Aug 24, 2012, 11.21 AM IST
Energy firms that have already invested more than USD 12 billion were told by India's oil minister on Thursday that the government would delay approvals for 52 exploration blocks, some of them awarded as far back as 1999.
Approval is being delayed due to defence, environment and maritime boundary issues, Petroleum and Natural Gas minister S. Jaipal Reddy said.
British firms BG Group, BP and Italy's ENI own one each.
Reddy said clearances for larger areas from which these blocks are carved out are obtained from concerned ministries before auctioning them.
Contractors then need approvals from the defence, environment and forest, and foreign ministries as well as the relevant state governments to start or continue exploration or production work.
The firms have invested USD 12.4 billion for exploration and development activities in the blocks, Reddy told lawmakers in a written reply.
The world's fourth biggest oil importer, India wants to tap domestic supply to cut its ballooning import bill and widening fiscal deficit.
Its crude oil import bill surged 48% to Rs 672000 crore in the year to March due to rising global oil prices, declining rupee and expanding refining capacity.
The economy is growing at its slowest pace in nearly a decade and policy paralysis has stalled major reforms including those on fuel pricing, denting global investors' confidence in the Indian oil sector.
In 2010, Brazil's Petrobras and Norway's Statoil exited from a block operated by ONGC in the hydrocarbon-rich Krishna Godavari Basin off India's east coast.
India, which imports about 80% of its oil needs, has awarded 249 blocks under nine licensing rounds since 1999. Oil and gas discoveries have been made in 38 blocks.
Tags: Energy firms, oil minister, government, Jaipal Reddy, Gas, Oil and Natural Gas Corp, Reliance Industries, BHP Billiton, Cairn Energy India
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