ONGC's Mumbai High, Vasai East saved from going into pvt hands

New Delhi: State-owned ONGC's nine biggest oil and gas fields, including Mumbai High and Vasai East, came tantalisingly close to being sold to private and foreign companies but the plan was nixed after strong opposition from within the government, sources said.

A high-level committee headed by Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar late last year considered "transferring" western offshore oil and gas fields of Mumbai High, Heera, D-1, Vasai East and Panna as well as Greater Jorajan and Geleki field in Assam, Baghewala in Rajasthan and Kalol oilfield in Gujarat to private/foreign companies.

Multiple sources in Niti Aayog and government said, the plan to give away fields producing 95 per cent of India's current oil and gas could not go through because of very strong opposition from Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) as well as some quarters within the government who found something amiss in the proposal.

Besides the nine fields, 149 marginal fields that contribute about 5 per cent of the domestic production were to be clustered and bid out.

While ONGC opposed giving away on a platter to private/foreign sector what it discovered after years of toil and spending billions of dollars over the last four decades, some in the government were not convinced by the incremental potential toyed with to get the proposal through, they said, adding it wasn't clear how the incremental output numbers were arrived at in the absence of any real basin or field study by the panel.

The proposal brought before the panel, which was appointed by the Centre in October last year to boost stagnant output from ageing fields of PSU oil companies, was to give private/foreign companies complete marketing and pricing freedom after getting from them an enhanced production profile for the fields. National oil companies (NOCs) were to get 10 per cent of incremental output over the business as usual scenario, sources said.

This was a second attempt to give ONGC fields to private and foreign companies.

In October 2017, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons had identified 15 producing fields with a reserve of 791.2 million tonne of crude oil and 333.46 billion cubic metres of gas of NOCs for handing over to private firms.

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