• Licensing rounds: No takers for hydrocarbon exploration permit

    No company has expressed interest for a hydrocarbon exploration permit in the latest licensing rounds in the country.

    The sixth and seventh licensing rounds, which ran between December and July, attracted no explorer as the pandemic clouded prospects for the oil sector, restricted mobility, and kept oil company executives busy with their operational challenges.

    “The pandemic didn’t permit much focus on acquiring new acreages. Once this settles down, we would again look at it,” said an executive at a state-run oil company.

    Even before the onset of the pandemic, private players were shy of seeking exploration acreages in India. A revamped licensing policy launched in 2018 did attract some private sector attention initially but the charm faded quickly.

    In the fourth and fifth rounds, there has barely been any contest with just two state-run firms – ONGC and Oil India – dominating bids. In the fifth round, where the government is in the process of awarding blocks, 12 bids were received for 11 blocks on offer, effectively reducing the contest to just one block. The bids included seven by ONGC, four by Oil India and one by Invenire Petrodyne ltd.

    Similarly, in the fourth round, a total of eight bids were received, including seven from ONGC and one from Oil India.

    Of the total blocks awarded in the first four rounds, Vedanta has 51 blocks, the highest for any company. Two other private players, Hindustan Oil Exploration Company and the joint venture of Reliance Industries and BP also have one block each.

    ONGC and Oil India have won 17 and 21 blocks, respectively, in the first four rounds. Other state firms—Indian Oil, BPRL and GAIL—too have one block each.

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