The ministry of petroleum and natural gas launched the third bidding round under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP), offering 23 hydrocarbon blocks covering over 31,000 sq km for exploration. While 18 blocks offered for bidding are based on expressions of interest (EoIs) submitted by bidders, the government has carved out 5 blocks primarily for coal-bed methane exploration.
  1. Under the OALP, once an explorer selects areas after evaluating the National Data Repository (NDR) and submits the EoI, it is to be put up for competitive bidding and the entity offering the maximum share of oil and gas to the government is awarded the block. 
  2. The third round was launched by petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan on the inaugural day of the three-day Petrotech 2019 conference organized at Greater Noida.
  3. Given that representatives of exploration firms from across the world will be attended the conference, the government is hopeful that the bidding round will see interest from them. With the launch of the third bidding round, more than 1,20,000 sq km has now been made available for exploration in last one year under the OALP.
  4. The OALP, a critical part of the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy, provides uniform licences for exploration and production of all forms of hydrocarbons, enabling contractors to explore conventional as well as unconventional oil and gas resources.
  5. Fields are offered under a revenue-sharing model and throw up marketing and pricing freedom for crude oil and natural gas produced.
  6. An NDR has been created to provide explorers’ data on the country’s repositories, allowing them to choose fields according to their capabilities. Data received through the National Seismic Programme, an in-depth study of 26 sedimentary basins, are continuously being added to the NDR.
  7. The 23 blocks offered now are spread across states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Nagaland, Tripura, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Some blocks are also in the country’s eastern and western offshore.
  8. While winners of the 14 blocks offered under round two will be declared by end of May 2019, Vedanta won 41 blocks out the 55 offered under the first round. The remaining blocks were won by Oil India, ONGC, HOEC, GAIL and BPRL.
  9. The government started bid rounds for hydrocarbon blocks last year after the last round of bidding under the National Exploration Licensing Policy in 2010.
  1. Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) gives an option to a company looking for exploring hydrocarbons to select the exploration blocks on its own, without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government. Under Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP), a bidder intending to explore hydrocarbons like oil and gas, coal bed methane, gas hydrate etc., may apply to the Government seeking exploration of any new block (not already covered by exploration).  
  2. The Government will examine the Expression of Interest and justification. If it is suitable for award, Govt. will call for competitive bids after obtaining necessary environmental and other clearances. 
  3. OALP was introduced vide a Cabinet decision of the Government dated 10.03.2016, as part of the new fiscal regime in exploration sector called HELP or Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy, so as to enable a faster survey and coverage of the available geographical area which has potential for oil and gas discovery.

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