Ecopetrol Invited by Reliance, ONGC Videsh to Explore in India

Ecopetrol SA, Colombia’s state-controlled crude producer, has been asked by Reliance Industries Ltd. of India and ONGC Videsh Ltd. to jointly develop oil and gas blocks in the South Asian country.

“Reliance and ONGC Videsh are already doing business with Ecopetrol in Colombia,” Juan Alfredo Pinto Saavedra, Colombia’s ambassador to India, said in an interview in Mumbai yesterday. “Now they have asked Ecopetrol to come to India with them. And we say, why not?”

India is offering 34 oil and gas exploration blocks in its ninth round of auctions as it steps up efforts to boost output to help meet demand in Asia’s second-fastest growing major economy. The auction began on Oct. 15 and will close on March 18.

Bogota-based Ecopetrol acquired a 20 percent stake in two exploration areas in Colombia operated by a unit of Reliance Industries, India’s largest company by market value, Reliance said in December 2009. The companies have an agreement to explore deepwater blocks in the Latin American nation.

ONGC Videsh, a unit of India’s biggest energy exploration company, has interests in five exploration blocks in Colombia and holds 50 percent in Mansarovar Energy Colombia Ltd., a venture between it and a Sinopec Group unit, according to its website.

ONGC Videsh’s director of exploration, Joeman Thomas, couldn’t be reached late yesterday on his office telephone in New Delhi. Reliance spokesman Manoj Warrier declined to comment.

Ecopetrol currently doesn’t have any stakes in exploration blocks in India.

India received $14 billion of bids in the previous eight rounds of auctions and is expecting increased demand in its latest offering, Oil Minister Murli Deora said Oct. 18.

The government is offering eight deep-water areas, seven shallow-water blocks and 19 onshore.

A planned integration of stock exchanges in Colombia, Chile and Peru could prompt further investment in the region by the Indian companies, Saavedra also said.

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