A Group of Ministers on Wednesday approved major game changers in oil and gas exploration and production sector, including asset stripping of state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corp and Oil India Ltd. Based on the proposal from the Petroleum Ministry, the GoM — headed by Finance Minister and assisted by Coal, Commerce, Power and Petroleum Ministers — identified 97 oil and gas fields that could be taken away from ONGC and OIL for auctioning to private companies. On January 29, a bureaucratic panel headed by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant recommended that ONGC should bid out 64 fields and OIL two to “new operators” without charging any past costs for their discovery or development efforts. The Indian Express had reported these changes in a series of reports last week.
These fields — discovered by the two national oil companies (NOCs) in exploration basins that were given under nomination — are out of the 118 smaller fields that contribute 5 per cent of the country’s crude oil output of 35.68 million tonnes and natural gas production of 32.65 billion cubic metres. The report was approved by Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on February 5, a week ago, and immediately put up before the GoM, as directed by the Prime Minister’s Office, on Wednesday. In the first and also the last sitting, the GoM approved it. The two NOCs would be left with 52 discovered “small and marginal fields” which could be taken away if they do not adhere to the promised “enhanced production profile” duly vetted by “an internationally reputed third party”. In case the oil and gas output fell below 10 per cent of the agreed performance for the next three years, the committee recommended that these could be taken away from the two NOCs and given away to private companies.