Unperturbed by the global economic crisis, India will launch next month its biggest ever auction of oil exploration blocks with about 100 areas likely to be offered for bidding.
"Next month, we will come out with the next round of bidding (of NELP) with about 100 blocks," Petroleum Secretary R S Pandey said at the function organised to inaugurate Mundra-Delhi pipeline.
Pandey said the round seven of New Exploration and Licensing Policy saw a maximum number of blocks being awarded and NELP VIII will be even larger.
"In NELP VII we signed contracts for 44 oil and gas blocks." Later talking to reporters, he said the government was keen to keep economic activities alive during the global downturn so that the investments take place.
"It is more important in slowdown that we generate maximum economic activity," he said. Pandey, however, said there could be resource crunch for international oil companies due to global credit squeeze.
"The major investments in NELP blocks come only after 4-5 years of exploration. And we think things will improve by then," Pandey added.
Under the first six rounds of NELP, a total investment of $8.3 billion in exploration of oil and gas was committed, out of which about $4.5 billion has already been incurred on exploration and $1.4 billion on development of discoveries.
A further $1.5 billion exploration spend is budgeted for NELP VII.
So far, 68 oil and gas discoveries in 19 blocks with inplace reserves of 500 million tonnes of oil and oil-equivalent gas had been established. With exploration development efforts made under NELP, natural gas production in the country is likely to be doubled from its present level of about 80 million standard cubic metres per day by the end of 11th Five-Year Plan.