India Enters Bidding for Offshore Oil-and-Gas Blocks

An aeriel view of the Israeli ‘Tamar’ gas processing rig off the southern coast of Ashkelon. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

India has entered the Israel oil-and-gas market in the most significant development in bilateral relations since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country in July.

The Indian state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp told Reuters that it plans to bid for Israeli offshore oil-and-gas exploration blocks, the first major deal between the two countries since Modi’s visit, the first ever by an incumbent Indian prime minister.

“We will definitely bid for Israel’s oil-and-gas blocks,” Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan stated.

The news comes after a senior delegation from India, the world’s third-biggest oil consumer, was in Israel last month to discuss the tender for blocks in the Mediterranean Sea.

Although Israeli officials were reportedly pleased with the way the visit went, there was no immediate comment from Israel’s energy ministry on further developments Wednesday.

Israel put 24 exploration blocks up for auction in November 2016, and energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, has said he looks forward to selecting two or three foreign explorations groups. The auction closes on Nov 15.

India is conducting a technical and commercial analysis to participate in the Israel’s bidding process, said Sanjay Sudhir, a joint secretary in the federal oil ministry, who led the delegation.

“We dove into all the relevant details of the tender — geological, technical — and familiarized them with Israel’s oil and gas ecosystem,” an official at Israel’s Energy Ministry said on the Indian team’s visit, declining to be identified in the absence of permission to speak to the media.

ONGC is being careful to avoid becoming embroiled in the regional dispute over sovereign rights in the Mediterranean. A source told Reuters at its overseas investment arm, ONGC Videsh, that the firm would not bid for any block in areas disputed by Israel and Lebanon.

“Israel has said that none of the blocks it has offered are in disputed waters,” said the source.