50 licences awarded for exploration of gas, oil

Published January 24, 2014
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.  — File Photo
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: After a rather long gap, the government on Thursday issued 50 provisional licences for exploration of oil and gas to eight local and two foreign firms having minimum investment commitment of $371 million.

Speaking at a press conference, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the government could not award licences for about four years because of teething problems vis-à-vis model concession agreement and petroleum rules formulated under the 18th Amendment which allowed greater say of provinces in matters involving their resources.

He said that 21 of the new exploration blocks were in Balochistan, 15 in Punjab, eight in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and six in Sindh. The agreements were awarded after resolution of all issues between the provincial governments.

The minister said that 29 exploration blocks were awarded to the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL), 10 to the Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), three to the Pakistan Oilfields Limited (POL), two to the Al-Haj Group, and the remaining ones to Mari gas, OMV of Austria, Ocean Petroleum, Oil and Gas Investment and Tallahassee of Canada.

Mr Abbasi said the exploration and production companies were well-prepared to go into Balochistan as they had undertaken the required research work and risk analyses before committing to the works.

The minister said the OGDCL secured the highest number of new blocks in Balochistan (14), followed by PPL (four). Three other companies, including two foreign firms, were awarded the other blocks in the province.

He expressed the hope that entry of these firms into Balochistan’s relatively safe areas would encourage other companies to go into the province’s difficult areas like Kohlu.

Mr Abbasi said the government was scrutinising the cases of the companies which had earlier secured exploration blocks but failed to complete their works. He said the licences awarded to a few such companies might be cancelled and offered to new bidders. This exercise would allow re-tendering for at least seven blocks.

Answering a query, the minister said the government had sought opinion from independent legal experts about two divergent decisions of two high courts over the same question for the same region. He said one high court had given the verdict that natural gas should be provided to CNG stations but the other had handed down an entirely different judgment.

He said the experts were also asked to explain whether the Potohar region fell under the jurisdiction of the Lahore High Court or that of Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Mr Abbasi said he would appear before the IHC on Friday (today) because he had received a contempt of court notice.

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