ONGC-Mittal eyes Kazakh oil block
MUMBAI. June 29. KAZINFORM. After the much publicised, unsuccessful bid to acquire PetroKazakhstan in 2005, the ONGC-Mittal combine is trying its luck in the central Asian republic once more. This time through OMEL, a joint venture between ONGC Videsh and LN Mittal. Negotiations are in an advanced stage with the Kazakh National Oil Company to acquire an exploration block in the country. A due diligence is in progress and an announcement is likely soon, sources close to the deal said. “Since the Kazakh government does not allow foreign oil firms to hold a majority stake, our stake would be limited to 50%, while the national oil company KazMunayGas would have the remaining,” said an OVL official. He refused to give the financial details. OVL and OMEL will jointly hold 50% in the block. OMEL was formed in 2005 to leverage on the strengths of the Mittal group’s connections in central Asia and Africa. The company has since managed to buy equity in two oil and gas fields in the Nigeria. Commenting on the prospects of the Kazakh block, the ONGC official said: “The block is in the Caspian region, which has proven hydrocarbon potential. We have conducted joint seismic studies and results are encouraging.” Kazakhstan, located northeast of the Caspian Sea, claims most of the sea’s biggest known oil fields. Its combined onshore and offshore proven hydrocarbon reserves have been estimated between 9 and 40 billion barrels (comparable to Opec members Algeria on the low end and Libya on the high end). Besides, its proven natural gas reserves ranges from 65-100 trillion cubic feet (tcf). According to Kazmunaigaz, Kazakhstan’s state oil and gas company, investment levels in offshore areas of the Caspian Sea are expected to rise from $3.8 billion for 2003-2005 to $16.8 billion for 2011-2015. The Kazakh government hopes to increase the production to around 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2015 from the current 1.3 million bpd. OVL recently acquired a 33% stake in an Egyptian deepwater gas block from Royal Dutch Shell for $380 million. Besides Kazakhstan, OVL is pursuing opportunities in oil and gas assets in Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Russia, Venezuela and Azerbaijan. The government has set a target for OVL to produce 6.34 million tonnes of oil and 1.65 billion cubic metres of gas in the current fiscal year ending March 2008, Kazinform quotes Economic Times.