India set to lose Farzad-B gas field in Iran discovered by ONGC Videsh

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Construction of Power of Siberia gas pipeline. Photo courtesy - Gazprom

India has all but lost the ONGC Videsh Ltd-discovered Farzad-B gas field in the Persian Gulf after Iran decided to prefer domestic companies over foreign firms for development of the field, sources said. ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the overseas investment arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), had in 2008 discovered a giant gas field in the Farsi offshore exploration block.

OVL and its partners had offered to invest up to $11 billion for development of the discovery, which was later named Farzad-B. The Indian consortium has so far invested around $400 million in the block.

After sitting over OVL’s proposal for years, the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) informed OVL in February this year about its intention to conclude the contract for Farzad-B development with an Iranian company.  OVL, however, continued its engagements with NIOC over the development of the field and sought terms and conditions of the proposed contract for its evaluation. Iran has not responded to the request.

It is believed Iran has identified a local firm for the development of the field.

Farzad-B holds total reserves of around 21.7 trillion cubic feet of which around 60 per cent is recoverable, and production is slated to be around 1.1 billion cubic feet per day. The 3,500 square kilometre Farsi block sits in water depth of 20-90 metres on the Iranian side of the Persian Gulf.

OVL, with 40 per cent operatorship interest, signed the Exploration Service Contract (ESC) for the block on December 25, 2002. Other partners included Indian Oil Corp (IOC) with 40 per cent stake and Oil India Ltd (OIL) holding the remaining 20 per cent stake.

OVL discovered gas in the block, which was declared commercially viable by NIOC, on August 18, 2008. The exploration phase of the ESC expired on June 24, 2009.

The firm submitted a Master Development Plan (MDP) of Farzad-B gas field in April 2011 to Iranian Offshore Oil Company (IOOC), the then designated authority by NIOC for development of Farzad-B gas field. The matter continued going back and forth between India and Iran without coming to a firm conclusion. Due to imposition of US sanctions on Iran in November 2018, technical studies could not be concluded which is a precursor for commercial negotiations.

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