Capex on developing oilfields to drop below $3.5 b

New Delhi: India‘s annual capital spending on developing oilfields will fall from next year, shrinking by about a fifth by 2030 in the absence of major discoveries, which will lead to a drop in domestic oil production and expand dependence on imports, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Capital expenditure on developing oil projects is estimated to drop below $3.5 billion in 2030 from around $4.3 billion in 2024. The estimates are based on the current pipeline of upstream projects, said Toril Bosoni, the head of oil markets at IEA.

“It’s possible that there will be finds, and new project developments will come online, but most of the time, the lag between discovery and production is beyond this time frame,” said Bosoni, referring to the IEA study which factors in capacity till 2030.

Companies have shown interest in recent exploration licencing rounds, and this may result in some discoveries but developing those will take time, which may stretch beyond 2030, she said.

The oilfield development capex rose from less than $3 billion in 2021 to a little above $4 billion in 2023, according to IEA.

The domestic oil production fell to just under 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2023 from a little more than 900,000 bpd in 2011. The output is expected to decline to 540,000 bpd by 2030, according to the IEA. Falling domestic output and increasing demand will increase India’s dependence on foreign oil.

Besides ONGC‘s KG block, which is expected to add 45-50,000 bpd at its peak, there are no other “material projects in the queue that have reached final investment decisions”, the agency said.

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India’s exploration licencing rounds have been dominated by state-run ONGC and Oil India, with limited participation by foreign firms. “In part, the absence of international companies may be due to lacklustre discoveries since the turn of the century,” the IEA said.

Over the past 23 years, 2,000 million barrels (mb) of commercial liquid resources have been discovered in India, compared to 10,000 mb in Angola, Norway and Guyana, and 40,000 mb in Brazil, it said.

“Major players may be waiting on the sidelines for a world-class find before establishing operations and cost centres in the country,” the IEA said.

The exploration budget of overseas firms is shrinking as a percentage of total outlays, having slipped to 9% last year from 21% in 2000, the report said, explaining their waning interest in exploration.

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Roy Walsh

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