New Delhi, November 9, 2020: India has been taking drastic steps to answer Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ made during the COVID-19 induced lockdown. In its march towards becoming a self-reliant nation that is consciously focused on enhancing domestic production and reducing imports, it has reviewed innumerable policies and laws to bring in reforms. In this regard, the oil sector requires special attention to be able to adequately contribute to the PM’s vision. The biggest hurdle to India becoming Aatmanirbhar, is the nation’s dependence on oil imports as India imports more than 80 percent of its crude oil needs and spent more than USD 100 billion in each of the last two years doing so. This is the scenario considering weaker international price trends, otherwise the forex outgo could have been much larger in last few years. In value and quantity, India’s oil imports have been on a consistent rise.
|India Oil Import|
One of the reasons lowering import dependence has been difficult is stagnating domestic output. India’s domestic oil production of about 35 million tonnes (MT) is not very high in view of the country’s total consumption, which is little over 200 MT. However, if the decline in domestic production can be arrested, it would lead to saving of few billion dollars.
The government has taken policy initiatives to enhance domestic oil and gas production and to promote energy efficiency and conservation measures. But the industry also needs to pitch in. There are some low hanging fruits, ready to be plucked but unfortunately for some reason or other those have not been monetized like the Cairn – Ravva block in coastal Andhra Pradesh and CB-OS/2 block in Cambay, Gujarat. Together these two blocks have the potential to produce 24-25 thousand barrels of oil (or equivalent) per day, equivalent to 1.25 million tonnes per annum.
Similarly, another one ready to be tapped is PY-1 Gas Field (offshore of Tamil Nadu), with an estimated potential of 12 mmscfd exists, lied untapped due to lack of investments to the tune of Rs.215 crore for drilling of three wells as per the plans it has submitted to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG).
Another asset that is plug and play is PY-3 Oil Field, again offshore Tamil Nadu. Importantly, PY3 has a reserve of 20 million barrels and can contribute about one percent of India’s domestic production but its development is held back due to vested interests. Considering PY-3 has the potential to contribute an incremental one percent of domestic production or approx. USD 130-135 million per annum, the potential saving in foreign exchange outgo could be worth more than USD one billion (or Rs.8000 crores).
The other asset, CB/OS-2 in the Cambay basin has a potential to produce close to 2.5 percent of India’s domestic production. But intervention by MoPNG to ask all parties interested in the block to sort out the issue of sharing cess and royalty from the incremental production in the block.
These and similar projects exist that in absolute terms can contribute about 10 percent of India’s domestic crude oil production. With a laser sharp focus, issues surrounding these projects should be resolved through active engagement of all the stakeholders as the question here is of national interest rather than any corporate agenda. Therefore, there should not be any hesitation by anyone to go the little extra mile to sort out the issues and thereby, help the country in whatever little way everyone can. Afterall, a long journey starts with the first step.
In a bid to expedite oil and gas exploration and raise domestic production, the government had in 2018 launched the first bid round under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) that allowed explorers to carve out desired areas for exploration and offered liberal terms. According to the Director General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), there has been an estimated amount of USD 75 million in investment in four OALP bid rounds till March 31, 2020. Govt. has opened India’s Exploration & Production sector by providing more exploration opportunities through Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) under Revenue Sharing Contract regime. Through OALP under HELP, over 1,36,000 sq. km of acreage has already been awarded for exploration to E&P players. Further, Indian sedimentary basins offer Prognosticated Hydrocarbon resources of ~30,000 MMtoe in ‘Yet to be Discovered’ category. Along with remarkable changes in the policy framework, several key investor centric measures such as waiver of environmental clearance for exploratory drilling, preclearance of blocks, digitalising contract management, under the umbrella of ‘Ease of Doing Business’ were also introduced. Further, the government is prioritising to strengthen technological prowess and make governance electronic and automatic.
Govt. has also ushered Data driven reforms in the sector, given the increasing dependence on data in today’s world. The National Data Repository (NDR), National Core Repository, National Seismic Program (NSP) and the Hydrocarbon Resource Reassessment are a testament to the Government’s vision to make quality data available, accessible and implementable to industry, universities and R&D firms. Cumulatively, these reforms are deemed to have a positive impact on the entries of global Oil and Gas investors in India and translate the opportunity offered in this sector into improved hydrocarbon returns.
Time is opportune as the revitalized E&P sector in India offers unmatched opportunities. The new initiatives will provide a simplified, transparent, and investor-friendly setup to drastically hike up the oil and gas output for India. It will thus, prove to be fruitful to be a part of this momentum.