India firms relying on foreign companies for domestic shale drilling


* Indian explorers awaiting shale oil & gas policy to startwork

* ONGC to take help from ConocoPhillips, Oil India fromCarrizo

* ONGC plans shale exploratory work in 10 wells

By Nidhi Verma

NEW DELHI, Oct 4 (Reuters) - India's Oil and Natural GasCorp and Oil India Ltd will tap theexpertise of foreign firms to hunt for shale oil and gas in theenergy-hungry nation, officials at the two firms said.

India, the world's fourth-biggest energy consumer, lastmonth approved rules for drilling of the unconventional fuel asit wants to quickly tap its resources to cut a growing crude oil imports bill.

ONGC will be taking technical help from Houston-basedConocoPhillips for shale drilling, the Indian company'schairman, Sudhir Vasudeva, told reporters at an industry eventon Friday.

ONGC plans to take up exploratory work in 10 wells in blocksspread across western Cambay and eastern Cauvery and KrishnaGodavari basins, he said, adding commercial drilling wouldcommence next year.

India could be sitting on as much as 96 trillion cubic feet(tcf) of recoverable shale gas reserves, equivalent to about 26years of its gas demand, according to the U.S. EnergyInformation Administration.

The country, though, has been slow to open up the sector.

India has not yet formally communicated the new policy toONGC and Oil India, that have only been allowed to drill forshale oil and gas in old blocks.

"I have given them (the exploration team) a target of 10wells...The day the policy is announced we will declare thefirst well is ready for spudding. We are all prepared," Vasudevasaid.

Oil India has identified the western state of Rajasthan andnortheastern state of Assam for initial shale drilling and couldalign with Houston-based Carrizo Oil & Gas, said S.Rath, its head of operations.

Oil India and Indian Oil last year acquired a 30percent stake in Carrizo's Niobrara shale assets in Colarado for$82.5 million.

"We are planning to drill some wells. We may have acooperation between Carrizo and Oil India..we are internallyprepared," Rath said, adding his firm is waiting for the policy.

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