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Vigil on mega projects

New Delhi, Feb. 3: The committee of secretaries headed by the Cabinet secretary will review the progress of all oil and gas exploration projects in the country once they are declared commercially viable and large investments begin to flow in.

In practice, this will mean some erosion of the petroleum ministry’s turf. However, petroleum minister Ram Naik maintained that this committee reviews all mega projects exceeding Rs 500 crore and projects under the new exploration licensing policy (NELP) were also being subjected to this review.

The decision is an offshoot of a finance ministry proposal, routed through the Prime Minister’s office. The finance ministry had proposed the setting up of “a task force comprising civil servants to give greater momentum” to oil and gas exploitation.

Naik was asked to make a presentation on the achievements in the hydrocarbon sector and the problems confronting the country on the energy front.

Naik said that he briefed the Prime Minister and his colleagues, including finance minister Jaswant Singh, disinvestment minister Arun Shourie and external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, on the new exploration licensing policy success story and the equity oil acquisition abroad by ONGC-Videsh.

According to Naik, total investment in 70 oil and gas exploration blocks awarded to oil companies under NELP in the last three years was expected to exceed Rs 14,500 crore. He said ONGC-Videsh had acquired properties in nine countries, including Russia, Sudan, Vietnam, Libya, Iraq, Iran and Myanmar.

The returns from three producing fields in Russia, Vietnam and Sudan would be around Rs 9,160 crore each year from 2005 onwards. He highlighted the fact that ONGC-Videsh had emerged as a third oil and gas producing public sector company.

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