KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of India’s exploration and production (E&P) major ONGC Limited, will bid for natural gas exploration and development blocks in Lebanon.
In a statement issued late on Monday, India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, said the proposal of an Indian bid was discussed with Lebanon’s Energy and Water Minister, following which it was decided that ONGC Videsh would participate in competitive bidding for the Lebanese natural gas assets.
It was learnt that the Lebanese government would put up at least five natural gas blocks for exploration and development over the next few months.
The gas blocks were first discovered in 2009 and are expected to attract several international E&P majors. It is unclear whether India’s ONGC Videsh will put in bids to secure the assets in a consortium with other global partners or go it alone.
The interest in Lebanon follows a string of new projects put on the anvil by ONGC Videsh, stretching from Mexico and Namibia to Vietnam and Russia, government officials said.
Early last week, ONGC Videsh signed an agreement to pick up a 30% equity stake in Tullow Namibia that will give the Indian firm an interest in three oil and gas blocks held by Tullow.
However, according to a statement from ONGC Videsh, Tullow will remain the lead operator of the Namibian licence although the Indian company will maintain a production-sharing agreement with its partners.
At the same time, although not officially announced as yet, it has been learnt that the Indian overseas E&P company has been able to secure an extension from the Vietnamese government for an offshore oil and gas block located in the South China Sea.
This is one of the several rounds of extension granted by the Vietnam government since the asset was first allocated to the Indian company in 2006.
Significantly, since its allocation, the Indian company has not been able to firmly establish viable hydrocarbon in the blocks held by ONGC Videsh, but with China claiming ownership of South China Sea where the block is located, both Vietnam and India are keen to stay invested in the block for geopolitical reasons, analysts point out.
Continuing to spread its interest worldwide, the Indian company last month figured in the shortlist for those eligible to bid for 15 shallow water exploration blocks to be put up for bidding by Mexico. ONGC Videsh is expected to compete along with the likes of international majors like Chevron, Total and Shell which were also shortlisted by Mexico.