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Bihar is now poised to emerge as one of India’s next major destinations for oil and natural gas reserves.
After British exploration giant Cairn Energy Search Ltd (CESL), it is now the turn of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to start exploration for crude reserves in the economically backward state. Speaking to Business Standard on Tuesday, the state’s Energy Minister Brijendra Prasad Yadav said ONGC would shortly seek a no-objection-certificate (NOC) for exploration of crude oil reserves in the Purnia basin. “We are eager to grant the NOC to ONGC. There would be no delay in granting it as the bureaucratic system in the state is now all prepared to complete the necessary paper work fast,” said the minister.

“We are ready to provide them support for the project to go through smoothly,” he added. Yadav said there is a “huge possibility” of the presence of large quantities of petroleum and natural gas reserves in the eastern district of Purnia. “A survey conducted by the directorate of hydro-carbon a few years back had left enough indications about the bountiful reserves in the district. We are hopeful about the ONGC exploration. If it proves fruitful, the state would witness a major turnaround,” he said.

Two months back, the Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy was commissioned for the first phase of exploration of a 15,500 sq km area in Bihar's Ganga basin. Cairn Energy has been granted a seven-year licence for the Purnia basin comprising 13 districts. The company's proposal, submitted two years back, was delayed due to various technical reasons. “It had to be cleared by the Ministry of Defence, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Atomic Energy Department,” said Yadav. “Cairn's aero-magnetic survey of the identified areas under the order of the central government has already pointed towards the presence of oil reserves in the basin. Cairn Energy has already started identifying the exact locations where they require deep boring to reach the layers of natural gas and petroleum reserves,” said the minister. He appreciated the “keen interest” shown by the Centre in the crude survey work in the state. Reserves in the Purnia basin may well be about 465 million tonnes of crude and natural gas, said a source in the mining department of Bihar.

The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation will invest Rs. 200 crore in two projects of oil and gas exploration in Bihar's Kishanganj district over the next three years. This was announced by ONGC's Chief Engineer and Land Acquisition Officer D P Vishwas. The company was finalizing an agreement to take six acres of land on lease in Gargaoin panchayat under Kochadhaman block and Korat Bangama panchayat under Bahadurganj block for the projects, he said. The drilling for up to five km will be carried out from April to explore oil and natural gas resources in the identified areas, the ONGC official said, adding that the construction of roads upto drilling sites has commenced.

The oil exploration work of Craine India Limited here came to a standstill today following an agitation launched by farmers who had given their land for the exploration.

Demanding enhancement of compensation, the farmers stopped the exploration work at Havidih under Baheri block of Darbhanga district from this morning.

At least 50 farmers, who had given 4.5 hectares land on one year lease to the multinational company, having its headquarters in Canada, for exploration of crude oil, launched the agitation as they were yet to get the first instalment of the compensation from the company.

Craine India, undertaking the first oil exploration work in Bihar following a positive underground survey last year, had already procured the necessary equipement, including the rig, from an American company for the exploration work.

Though senior representatives of the company held three rounds of negotiations with the agitating farmers, the talks remained inconclusive so far, official sources informed.

Earlier, Craine India, in accordance with the district land acquisition regulation, had agreed to pay Rs 8.5 lakh in June as compensation to the agitating farmers and deposited the amount to the local authorities.But the farmers were yet to receive any money allegedly because of the apathetic attitude of the officials of the department.

The agitating farmers were now demanding compensation at the rate of Rs 7,800 per cottah from the administration and it was yet to be seen whether the company was ready to enhance the compensation, District Magistrate Arun Prasad said and hoped that the matter would be resolved soon.


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