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Oilfield auction to boost State�s economy: Govt

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, June 29 - Amidst widespread controversy regarding the Central Government�s decision to auction 12 oilfields of Assam, the State Government today asserted that the move would improve economic condition of the State. Meanwhile, oil industry sources expressed doubts on whether any major global company would come for the global bidding of the micro and mini oilfields in Assam.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, State Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that the move to auction 12 micro and mini oilfields would bring in investment to the tune of at least Rs 5,000 crore to the State, while the financial condition of the State would also receive a major boost because of the royalty and taxes to be received once the companies start extracting oil from those fields.

Patowary revealed that the oilfields, which would be auctioned, were not used for more than two decades and the bidding companies would only get the right to extract oil from the fields and the land rights would not be changed. He said that the new exploration licensing policy was introduced in the year 1997-98 and oilfields were auctioned in different parts of the country under the policy.

However, the Centre recently decided to liberalize the licensing policy and 67 oilfields of the country, including 12 from the State, would be auctioned together next month. Patowary said that due to lack of open auction of coalfields, the country witnessed a major coal scam during the tenure of the UPA Government at the Centre. But because of the open and transparent system introduced during the tenure of the present government at the Centre, a substantial amount is coming to the coffers of the Central Government. Similarly, open bidding of the oilfields would be beneficial for the State, he added.

Patowary said that different State-based organisations, like Numaligarh Refinery Ltd, Assam Gas Company, Assam Hydro Carbon and Energy Company, etc., would also be participating in the bidding process. He pointed out that the amount of crude oil produced in the State presently is not adequate even to meet the requirement of the State�s refineries. A decision has already been taken on principle to increase the capacity of the Numaligarh Refinery and under the circumstances, bidding of the oilfields of the State is required. Or else, the government would be forced to import crude to meet the requirement of the refineries of the State and the cost of production would go up substantially.

Meanwhile, sources in the oil industry expressed doubts on whether major oil exploration companies would show interest in bidding for the micro and mini fields of the State which are lying idle for years. Sources said that Oil India Limited and ONGC engage private sector companies having expertise in exploration, but because of the ground situation, many globally-recognised companies now think twice before coming to Assam. Now it is doubtful whether any major company will show interest in going for substantial investments in the State by bidding for old and unused fields, sources added.

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