Vietnam offers 5 oil and gas blocks to OVL

The five blocks or areas-17, 41, 43, 10&11-1 and 102 and 106/10 lie outside the territory claimed by China in the South China Sea.

Vietnam has offered to give ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) five offshore oil and gas exploration areas without bidding, in a move to counter China's influence in the region.

Vietnam offered five exploration blocks on nomination basis during talks with visiting Vietnamese Communist Party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong on Thursday, said a top official.

The five blocks or areas-17, 41, 43, 10&11-1 and 102 & 106/10 lie outside the territory claimed by China in the South China Sea.

OVL will study the data on the blocks and has the option to pick and choose from the blocks. It can even take all of them and also has to option not to take any of them, he said.

If OVL decides to take any or all of the blocks, a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) will be signed.

OVL, the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), already has stake in a gas production block on the southern Vietnamese coast.

It also had interest in two exploration blocks - 127 and 128 in the South China Sea, an area which China claims being part of its East Sea. OVL, however, relinquished Block 127 in offshore Phu Khanh Basin after it failed to find any oil or gas in the area.

It plans to withdraw from adjacent Block 128 which is under extended exploration phase-1 until June 15, 2014. China claims sovereignty over most of the South China sea where Block 127 and 128 are located and had warned the Indian arm from drilling in the region.

The official said OVL on Wednesday signed a memorandum of joint exploration with Vietnam's state-owned PetroVietnam.

The exploration pact allows OVL and PetroVietnam to carry out activities in Vietnam, India as well as in a third country.

OVL continues to own 45 per cent in Vietnam's offshore block 6.1. OVL's share of production was 2.023 billion cubic metres of gas and 0.036 million tonnes of condensate. On Block 127, it had drilled a well in 2009 but no hydrocarbon was found.

After the fulfilment of contractual obligations, the Block was relinquished. Efforts to drill a well in Block 128 were unsuccessful due to severe logistic constraints in anchoring the rig on a hard sea bottom at the proposed drilling location.

Considering previous experience and perceived risk-reward analysis, Block 128 was found to be techno-commercially not viable and the Board of OVL had decided to relinquish the block, the official said.

The company has, however, decided to continue with the block following request from Ministry of External Affairs and the Vietnamese government. OVL had won the Blocks 127 and 128 in the Phu Khanh basin further north in 2006.