'Arrival of Sudan oil in India a dream come true'

Monday, 19 May 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI:The arrival of the first shipment of 80,000 tonnes of Nile Blend crude oil from Sudan Thursday could well be the start of a deepening of bilateral ties with India, says Sudan's Ambassador Abdal Mahmood Abdalhaleem Mohammad.

Having got a stake in a producing oil block in Sudan, India is now looking at two other oil blocks for which the competition is bound to be tough, admitted the envoy.

"It was a historic moment to see Seafalcon, the crude carrier, coming into Mangalore port, more so as it had set sail from Port Sudan, where Mahatma Gandhi halted in the 1930s on his way to Britain.

"It was a dream come true for Sudan to see the bilateral cooperation being realized," Mohammad told IANS.

"This is just the start of the bilateral cooperation we are seeking with India and would like to see it extended to trade, culture, science and technology, human resource development, IT, pharma, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and food security. India has an excellent record and we would like to benefit from it," said the ambassador.

With oil shaping the new contours of global relations, Mohammad said India's act of taking 25 percent equity stake in the Greater Nile Oil Project in Sudan showed great foresight.

"Oil is emerging as an instrument of determining frontier in international relations. For India to have taken equity in a Sudan oil field shows great foresight. The Sudanese government welcomes India's participation in its oil sector," said Mohammad.

Depending on imports for 70 percent of its oil requirement, India through state-owned ONGC Videsh Ltd. last year took over Canadian Talisman Energy's stake in a producing block in Heglig and Unity fields in the oil-rich Muglad Basin.

The Greater Nile Oil Project consists of four blocks in the Muglad Basin and a 1,500 km pipeline from the producing fields to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. It currently produces 12 million tonnes of oil annually (240,000 barrels per day).

India's share from the block works out to three million tonnes of oil annually. The oil being of good quality from a reliable source, India is keen to not only bring its entire share but also persuade the other partners in the block to let it have the remaining supplies on commercial terms.

OVL's other partners in the Sudan field are the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC) with 40 percent stake, the Malaysian National Oil Company Petronas with 30 percent and the Sudan National Oil Company with five percent stake.

"OVL is looking at two more oil blocks in the same Heglig field," Mohammad disclosed.

Two multinationals are reportedly trying to offload their stake in the Sudan field for which OVL is now in the race.

"The competition is bound to be tough as other international companies have shown interest in the two blocks. We want India's involvement in exploration and value added sectors like petrochemicals, refining and marketing. In fact, all aspects of the oil industry given its expertise," said the ambassador.

He added that the Sudanese government would look favourably at India's interest to seek more equity stake in their country as also participate in other sectors.

Given India's technical expertise, Sudan is keen to have more Indian companies invest in the country.

"It is no secret that the Sudan government is interested in encouraging Indian investment not only in the oil sector, where India could step up investment and help to enhance production, but also other areas. The entire Sudanese government and people are keen on a multi-faceted relationship with India," he added.

Source: IANS
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