The government is likely to launch the tenth round of auction under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) this fiscal, oil minister M Veerappa Moily said on Tuesday.
"The DGH (directorate-general of hydrocarbons) has carved out exploration area of about 2.7 lakh sqkm for which process of inter-ministerial clearances has been initiated. On completion of clearance process, exploration blocks are likely to be offered in 2013-14," he said while addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary consultative committee in Mussoorie.
While Moily did not indicate the number of blocks to be offered, officials said as many as 68 blocks or areas for exploration of oil and gas may be auctioned. This will be the second-highest offering of block since the advent of NELP 1999. Of the blocks being considered for offering in NELP-X, 25 are deep-water, 20 shallow-water and 23 onland blocks.
The government has in previous nine rounds awarded 254 blocks for exploration of oil and gas. Last few rounds received tepid response with global majors staying away. Of the 34 areas offered in NELP-IX in 2010, bids were received for 33 blocks at the close of bidding on March 28, 2011. Of these, only 19 blocks were awarded.
Moily said crude oil production in current fiscal is likely to rise to 39.396 million tonne (MT) in current fiscal from 37.762 MT in the last. Nearly 31 percent of last year's output came from private firms like Cairn India. Natural gas production on the other hand is expected to decline to 105 million standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) in 2013-14 from 111.4 mmscmd in the previous fiscal, he said.
The main reason for the dip is lower output from Reliance Industries' eastern offshore KG-D6 field. "With the fresh investments in E and P sector, natural gas production is likely to further rise by end of 12th Five-Year Plan," Moily said.
NELP-VIII was the largest round with 70 blocks being offered. But only 32 blocks could be awarded. In NELP-VII, 41 blocks out of the 57 areas offered were awarded while NELP-VI was by far the most successful round with 52 out of 55 blocks on offer finding bidders. The first five bid rounds saw award of 107 blocks.
India has an estimated sedimentary area of 3.14 million sqkms, comprising 26 sedimentary basins. At present, an area of 0.93 million sqkm area is held under exploration and production in 19 basins.
"As of now, 73 billion barrels of oil and oil equivalent gas could be established through exploration, out of 205 billion barrels of prognosticated hydrocarbon resources. Thus, about 133 billion barrels of prognosticated resources remain to be unlocked through exploration," he said.