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Security code to raise ONGC drilling cost

New Delhi, April 6: State-owned oil major, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), seems to be in trouble with the new security norms proposed by the defence ministry. If these norms are implemented, some of ONGC’s oil exploration vessels may be rendered useless.

Sources disclose that as part of the more stringent norms, the defence ministry wants all seismic surveys carried out in the oil exploration blocks to be done with vessels that possess on-board data processing facilities.

However, ONGC’s fleet has several vessels that do not have these data processing facilities. These vessels would go out of action and ONGC would have hire more expensive vessels from foreign companies for oil exploration. This would also push up the already high costs involved in oil exploration.

The defence ministry, on its part, wants to put very stringent norms in place as it fears that if the data pertaining to the offshore areas is sent abroad for processing it may be leaked to hostile nations that can use it for clandestine submarine operations. The ministry is reported to have taken the stand that the prohibition on sending data abroad has already been enforced by several countries engaged in oil exploration.

The petroleum ministry feels that the earlier system where clearance was taken from the defence ministry for sending raw data abroad for processing on a case to case basis sufficiently meets the security requirements. The ministry had wanted to initiate the process of the fourth round of international bidding for the oil exploration blocks (Nelp-IV) in late March or the first week of April this year. But this is likely to be delayed in view of the serious inter-ministerial differences.

The defence ministry is reported to be of the view that its norms should be clearly incorporated in the Nelp-IV.

VRS proposal

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is likely to consider this month ONGC’s proposal to offer voluntary retirement to its surplus staff.

The petroleum ministry has moved a Cabinet note for a modified VRS proposal after ONGC’s earlier scheme was rejected last year by CCEA. The committee did not approve the scheme on grounds that it was not attractive enough, official sources said.

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