Foreign firms to dig Brahmaputra to strike oil

Thursday, 11 November 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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GUWAHATI: India is planning a massive hunt to strike crude oil in its northeast by engaging foreign experts to dig the bed of the main Brahmaputra river, officials said Thursday.

An Indian petroleum ministry official said six oil contractors from the US, France, Poland and Britain are expected to arrive in the oil-rich state of Assam later this month for an on-the-spot survey of the area.

"The six geophysical contractors, all of them of worldwide repute, would be taken to possible survey sites and then we shall invite global tenders for the digging operations," the official told IANS.

The entire operation, organised by the state-owned Oil India Limited (OIL), is expected to cost about 1 billion ($22 million).

"If our plans of extracting oil from the river bed is successful than it will be like striking a goldmine," the official said.

"The task will be challenging no doubt but not impossible."

Assam produces five million tonnes of crude oil annually, with production by OIL remaining stagnant at about 3.5 million tonnes since the last one decade. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), another premier oil exploration company, produces about 1.5 million tonnes of crude annually in Assam.

OIL has made preliminary seismic surveys looking for crude reserves in the bed of the Brahmaputra.

The 2,906-km-long Brahmaputra is one of Asia's largest and most turbulent rivers and traverses its first stretch of 1,625 km in China's Tibet region, the next 918 km in India and the remaining 363 km through neighbouring Bangladesh before converging with the Bay of Bengal.

"The entire exercise would require highly sophisticated technology and expertise and hence the need to give the overseas firms a first hand experience of the terrain and the task they need to perform before formally taking up the assignment," said a senior OIL official.

OIL has already engaged an Australian firm to have a "re-look" at the existing oilfields and reservoirs to enhance production.

India's crude oil and gas production stands at about 60 million tonnes annually, less than half the country's yearly requirement.

Experts in the northeast have begun exploration in new areas as the existing oil fields have been showing "declining trends" with the passage of time.

"Production capability is very high in the new areas and so we are laying much emphasis on exploratory and drilling work in unexplored locations in the northeast," the OIL official said.

ONGC on its part has decided to invest more than 10 billion to revamp facilities and upgrade technologies in its oil fields in the northeastern region.

"There is an urgent need to revamp and upgrade technologies in the region as ONGC's operations were more than 45 years old and facilities used have become obsolete," a senior ONGC official said.

Source: IANS
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