ISLAMABAD - The government didn’t award any oil and gas exploration lease during the past four years of its tenure, it has been learnt.

Although haughty claims were made by various government officials, however ground reality is totally different as no fresh Exploration lease was granted by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, official sources told The Nation. Directorate General of Petroleum Concession is responsible for award exploration leases and bringing new investment, however it hasn’t produce any tangible results. There are several challenges faced by the DGPC which includes the shortage of workforce, companies employees are deputed to work in the most sensitive department, delay in reorganisation of DGPC.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, Pakistan Petroleum Exploration and Production Companies Association (PPECA) has complained about the delay in awarding new exploration leases. According to the letter, the last bidding round of award of new exploration block licenses took place in March 2013; thereafter, more than 25 requests(as per PPIS annual report 2015-16) for award of blocks were made by E&P companies which are still pending. “As you are aware that sustained exploration activity and maintaining investor interest requires regular grant of new blocks,” the letter added.

“We understand that one of the key hurdles to the fresh invitation of bids is the obtaining of NOC/security clearance from the law enforcement agencies as well as provincial authorities. However, section 3.2 of the Petroleum Policy 2012 clearly mentions that No area clearance would be required for concession blocks falling inside the white/green areas.”

“Given that most of the pending requests are for the areas that were previously part of awarded concessions (and hence security cleared) we feel that security clearance should not be an impediment. We therefore urge you to expeditiously issue invitation to bid as entailed in section 3.2.1 of the policy for the award of the pending new block applications rather than waiting for another bidding round. This is all the more important in an environment where foreign investors have either exited or are in the process of exiting the country,” the letter said.

“We have also not been also not been able to acquire a copy of map of White/green areas mentioned in all petroleum policy documents issued by the government,” the letter said. It is pertinent to mention here that in a letter to the Defence Ministry, Director General of Petroleum Concessions (DGPC) has asked that so far clearance of none of the 41 blocks except ‘desert’ has been provided due to which the petroleum ministry has been unable to initiate the bidding process for awards of blocks.

FAWAD YOUSAFZAI