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04.03.2005 Business & Finance

Indian team to study oil prospects in Ghana

By Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi, March 4 : India has agreed to "rush" a team to Ghana and some African countries, in the next couple of weeks, to study prospects for exploration and production as also upgradation of refineries there.

"We have agreed to rush a composite team to Chad and then to Niger in the next couple of weeks to lay the groundwork for a possible inter-governmental agreement," Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said here Friday.

The team would later go to Congo to study both the exploration and production potential as also the possibility of refurbishing their refinery on the lines of the project being undertaken by India in Sudan.

In the case of Ghana, where no oil has been found as yet, India would offer its expertise to carryout seismic surveys for hydrocarbon reserves, the minister said.

Expressing happiness at the enthusiasm expressed by visiting dignitaries from several African countries, including Chad, Niger, Ghana and Congo, who had met him, Aiyar said India is keen to step up cooperation in the region.

Over 130 representatives and 25 ministers from 24 African countries have arrived here to attend the three-day India-Africa Partnership Project conclave organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in association with the Indian government.

During presentations at the conclave, several African countries offered investment opportunities in exploration blocks and other energy projects.

"We are looking very keenly at many countries in Africa and hope to repeat the Sudan experience in other parts of the region," said V. Ravindranath, executive director of ONGC Videsh.

"According to wildcatter John Dykes, Africa is set to produce more oil and gas than some of the Middle East countries," said Ravindranath.

India has so far invested over $700 million in exploration efforts in Sudan, where ONGC Videsh holds stakes in three exploration blocks, including the Greater Nile Projects, which is contributing over three million tonnes of oil annually for the country.

The exploration major also holds stakes in two exploration blocks in Libya.

"This is the time for India to come and look for investment opportunities in central Africa. We sincerely hope India will look at this region as an area of opportunities," said Chad's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nagoum Yamassoum.

Yamassoum said currently Chad is in the process of setting up a hydrocarbon company to handle all oil and gas investment matters. A net exporter of oil since the last one and a half years, Chad is seeking investments in one of its light crude oil reserve blocks, which is estimated to hold considerable gas.

Currently importing all its oil requirement, Tanzania is seeking investments in seven out of 12 exploration blocks that are estimated to hold good gas and oil reserves. So far five of the blocks have been awarded to energy majors like Shell, while India has been offered a look at other blocks.

"Deep sea holds great potential in our country. This is an area where India can come and do deep sea exploration," said Invocait H. Swai, director of policy and planning in the Tanzania ministry of energy and minerals.

Niger is also shortly going to offer four oil and gas blocks for exploration. It is also seeking Indian participation in a pipeline project for the export of gas from the African region to Europe.

The pipeline is expected to lift gas from Nigeria, Niger and Algeria for delivery to Europe.

Seeking Indian participation in varied fields, Mustafa Bello, CEO of Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, highlighted the fact that three of the refineries in the country are shortly to be privatised.

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