Thursday, November 29, 2012


This question has come to fore after ONGC's overseas arm, ONGC Videsh (OVL), purchased 8.4% of the giant Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan for $5 billion in a deal which is for the span of 25 years. Located in the north Caspian Sea, this is the world's largest oil discovery since 1968, with reserves estimated to be as high as 30 billion barrels.  Let’s look at some other major countries for comparison. China prefers acquiring assets; Japan opts buying oil, instead. India opts for both. So now lets look at both cases. With crude prices at $100 per barrel, OVL will recover the full value of its investment in a little more than six years. If prices fall, it will take longer. Thus this deal might not be good in near term. This Kashagan oil field is estimated to have very high capacity and output capacity of 3mn barrels/day. Keeping this factor it looks quite a lucrative deal in long term but, if it turns out to be a disaster similar to its $2-billion deal to buy Russia's Imperial Energy it would dent the comapny and the country very badly as OVL has exhausted all its reserves in this deal. But the Kashagan deal is unlikely to suffer the same fate because of its huge estimated capacity. One more fear was that it might be difficult to transport this oil to India but this fear is warded off as this output can be swapped with any other seller worldwide. Thus this recent buying spree may be good to secure energy sources for the country and meet its long-term production goals. The other side of discussion i.e. importing oil cannot be declined this easily. Experience shows that functional oil markets offer security, with some reserves thrown in and oil markets functioned even during the two Gulf wars. It is completely the government’s policies whether it wants to stick to importing or go for buying fields. So is it right to buy fields or import oil?