The government is likely to prioritise the auction of offshore blocks in the upcoming bidding round in order to attract more foreign investors.

In this regard, high-level officials of exploration and production companies met with Energy Minister Omar Ayub on Thursday.

Sources said that Mari Petroleum took up the matter during the meeting. Company representatives suggested to the government to give priority to offshore blocks in the upcoming bidding round as they had great potential for oil and gas reserves.

They said that Pakistan could fetch better results in oil and gas exploration, which would help overcome gas shortage and meet oil requirement of the country.

Earlier, Pakistan’s state companies, along with foreign firms Eni and ExxonMobil, had made efforts to drill and find reserves in an offshore block near Karachi. But the efforts could not yield successful results.

However, officials of Pakistani companies were of the view that the country was at least able to collect data to make further efforts in future. Now, Mari Petroleum has come up with a plan that the government should prioritise offshore blocks, hinting that the company is ready to make offshore drilling.

The meeting also discussed new bidding rounds for oil and gas blocks including offshore blocks, revocation of existing blocks and amendment to the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules for state-owned oil and gas companies.

Officials said that exploration companies also took up the matter of revocation of existing blocks. The minister assured them that a meeting would be held to address concerns of the oil and gas exploration companies in this regard.

During the meeting, the state-run oil and gas exploration companies also took up the matter of amendment to PPRA rules. The companies are unable to perform and compete with private sector companies due to lengthy process under the existing PPRA rules.

The government wants to reduce the time period for any procurement by state-run companies to make them competitive in the oil and gas market.

The government has already made amendment to PPRA rules for Pakistan LNG Limited (PLL) to reduce the time period for LNG procurement. The government also wants to introduce the same mechanism for oil and gas exploration companies.

Sources said that the Petroleum Division had sought comments of companies in a bid to table a summary before the competent forum to seek formal approval for amendment to PPRA rules.

Meanwhile according to a statement, speaking to a roundtable, the minister said that revival of exploration and production activities in the country was the key objective of the government, which had been ignored by previous governments. He said that the current administration was aiming for self-sufficiency in the oil and gas sector by auctioning new blocks and increasing output of the E&P sector.

The minister also highlighted the pro-investment policies of the government by introducing ease of doing business in the petroleum sector and transparency to ensure a level playing field for all competitors. He was of the view that the onset of E&P activities would expand the oil and gas business, create job opportunities in the country and help bring down the import bill.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2021.

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