New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP)

After the Nomination era till late 1970s, Pre-NELP Exploration era (1980-95) and Pre-NELP Field rounds (1992-93), Government of India formulated a policy called as New Exploration Licensing Policy in 1997. The main objective was to attract significant risk capital from Indian and Foreign companies, state of art technologies, new geological concepts and best management practices to explore Oil and Gas resources in the country to meet rising demands of Oil and Gas. This NELP policy was approved in 1997 and it became effective in February, 1999. Since then licenses for exploration are being awarded only through a competitive bidding system and National Oil Companies (NOCs) are required to compete on an equal footing with Indian and Foreign companies to secure Petroleum Exploration Licenses (PELs). Nine rounds of bids have so far been concluded under NELP, in which production sharing contracts for 254 exploration blocks have been signed.


The Government has taken number of measures to bring in healthy competition and public participation by the way of NELP for exploration & production of Oil & gas in the country. NELP has not only accelerated the quest for hydrocarbon exploration, but has also brought the state of the art technology and efficiency of operations /management to the country.


Government of India has signed 28 contracts for 29 discovered fields (1 PSC for Panna Mukta),28exploration blocks under Pre-NELP Exploration regime and 254 blocks under NELP regime with National Oil Companies and private (Both Indian and foreign)/ Joint Venture companies. At present, out of 311 exploration blocks/fields awarded so far under various bidding rounds (Discovered Field, Pre-NELP & NELP), 178 blocks/ fields are operational.


The awarded 254 blocks are located in onland (111), offshore shallow water (62) and deepwater (81) areas. As a result of exploratory activities, several unexplored and poorly explored areas, in particular offshore and deepwater areas have been appraised through geophysical surveys and exploratory drilling. So far a total of 140 hydrocarbon discoveries (49 Oil and 91 Gas). Most of the gas discoveries have been made in shallow water offshore (39) and deepwater blocks (46).

Round Launch Year Signing Year
PRE-NELP Exploration  1980 1980-1995
 PRE-NELP Filed  1992  1992-1993
 NELP-I  1999  2000
 NELP-II 2000  2001
 NELP-III  2002  2003
 NELP-IV  2003  2004
 NELP-V  2005  2005
 NELP-VI  2006  2007
 NELP-VII  2007  2008
 NELP-VIII  2009  2010
 NELP-IX  2010  2012

NELP bidding rounds have also attracted many Private and Foreign Companies in addition to PSUs. Before the NELP, a total 35 E&P Companies (5 PSUs, 15 Private and 15 Foreign) were working in Nomination and Pre-NELP regime. After the conclusion of nine rounds of NELP bidding, the total number of companies have increased to 117 (11 PSUs, 58 Private and 48 Foreign Companies as Operators and Non-operators/Consortium Partners). Major Private Companies were RIL, Jubilant and Essar. The major foreign companies were British Gas, British Petroleum, Cairn Energy, ENI, Santos and BHP Billiton.

Round Awarded Relinquished Operational
Deep-water Shallow water Onland Total Deep-water Shallow water Onland Total Deep-water Shallow water Onland Total
 NELP-I  7  16  1  24  4  15  1  20  3  1  0  4
 NELP-II  8  8  7  23  8  6  5  19  0  2  2  4
 NELP-III  9  6  8  23  8  5  5  18  1  1  3  5
 NELP-IV  10  0  10  20  10  0  5  15  0  0  5  5
 NELP-V  6  2  12  20  5  1  8  14  1  1  4  6
 NELP-VI  21  6  25  52  21  2  15  38  0  4  10  14
 NELP-VII  11  7  23  41  11  4  8  23  0  3  15  18
 NELP-VIII  8  11  13  32  3  4  0  7  5  7  13  25
 NELP-IX  1  3  15  19  1  0  1  2  0  3  14  17
Total  81  59  114  254  71  37  48  156  10  22  66  98

Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) IOCL, GAIL, BPCL working under MoP&NG and their subsidiaries like Bharat Petro Resources Ltd. (Subsidiary of BPCL), Prize Petroleum Company Limited (Subsidiary of HPCL), have participated in various NELP bidding rounds and have been awarded exploration blocks in various NELP bidding rounds. In addition to central PSU, state PSU like GSPC have participated in various NELP bidding rounds and have been awarded exploration blocks.


Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP)

Setting up of National Data Repository is one of the milestones achieved for Open Acreage Licensing Policy. To make India a favorable destination globally for Exploration of Crude Oil and Natural Gas, the Government plans to move to the OALP regime soon. This will enable upstream companies to bid for any Oil and Gas block without waiting for the announcement of bidding as currently under the NELP regime.


It is well acknowledged that there is a need for a faster vehicle of awarding blocks in order to bring more area under exploration. Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) is one such vehicle which is under consideration of the Government wherein blocks may be offered round the year to the interested companies. The selection of the block would be left to the interested player as opposed to NELP where blocks are carved out by the Government. However, launch of OALP would directly depend upon the availability of the data for both the awarded and un-awarded acreages.


As India has vast unexplored sedimentary basins, a strategy which facilitates a time bound full coverage has become a necessity. Moreover, even the OALP pre-supposes offering of data to the interested companies for them to submit their bids/ interest. Hence, availability of data is no longer an option, but a pre-condition. The Planning Commission therefore observed that the existing multiclient speculative survey policy will not serve the desired objective. Hence, the policy prescription must provide for a definite strategy -one for proven basins wherein the data companies could acquire multiclient data at their own expense and risk, and offer the data to interested companies who may be able to obtain the chosen acreages through an OALP process. As regards the un-proven basins, other models based on PPP may be considered by the Government.


In view of the above background, it has been decided to formulate a Geo-scientific Data Generation Policy for Hydrocarbons in the country which will be a cornerstone for the launch of Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) to promote E&P activities. This Policy envisages two basic models for generation of geo-scientific data for Indian basins


(i) Non-exclusive Multi-client Model:- In areas where there are expressions of interest by Service Provider to carry out Survey.


(ii) Funding by Government: For area for which no offer to Conduct Survey under (i) is received even after two years of its launch, Government may initiate Survey with own funds.


Seven proposals have been received for generation of approx 107386 LKM 2D Seismic data, under the policy for Geo-scientific data generation for hydrocarbons in Indian sedimentary Basins, through Non-exclusive Multi-Client Geo-scientific surveys/ Activities. All the seven proposals have received clearances from Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA). DGH has issued provisional letter of consent to all the proposals.