GUWAHATI, India, Oct 16 (AFP): A consortium of French, Canadian, and Indian oil companies is expected to begin exploration work in India's mountainous northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, an official said Sunday.
An Indian petroleum ministry official said the federal government awarded exploration rights for the 295-square-kilometre (118 square-mile) block in Arunachal Pradesh, bordering China and Myanmar, to a consortium of three companies as part of a global bidding process.
"The consortium includes operator Geopetrol International of France and Canoro Resources of Canada, both of which have 30 percent stakes each, besides India's National Thermal Power Corporation with 40 percent interest in the project," the official, who did not wish to be identified, told AFP.
Geopetrol, a subsidiary of the French Geofinance Group which operates in 80 countries worldwide, and Canoro have been jointly engaged in exploration work in the oil-rich northeastern part of India for the past decade.
The two companies are now part of the producing Kharshing oilfield in Arunachal Pradesh that they began exploring in 1995.
The official said the exploration contract was awarded for a seven-year period followed by a 20-year production term for any commercial discovery. A five-year extension is possible in the event of commercial viability.
"The consortium is expected to carry out 2-D and 3-D seismic surveys and at least seven wildcat drillings of up to 2,000 to 4,000 meters (6,600 to 13,200 feet) in the next three years," the official said.
"No wells have been drilled on the block and there is limited seismic coverage over the area where the consortium has been assigned carry out the difficult task."
India produces about 30 million tonnes of crude oil annually, with the northeast accounting for about six million tonnes of the total.
National Thermal Power is a state-owned electricity generation firm. The exploration in Arunachal Pradesh would be the company's first venture in the upstream oil and gas business.
Meanwhile, state-owned Oil and Natural Gas, India's biggest company by market capitalisation, plans to spend about 750 million dollars to double its crude production in the northeast in the next three years.
Oil and Natural Gas currently produces 1.5 million tonnes of crude in northeastern Assam state.
"We have taken up a slew of strategies to increase production to about nine million tones annually by 2008 in the northeast," the petroleum ministry official said.