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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
India 'to spend $1bn' on foreign energy
India says it plans to spend $1bn a year on overseas oil and gas reserves to meet its energy needs.

The announcement came as Pakistan said it hoped to persuade India to join a transnational gas pipeline project, together with Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

India's heavy energy requirements have seen it source increasing quantities of oil and gas from abroad, and ministers said this is only going to increase in the next 10-15 years.

"Wherever possible, we are looking for large investments," the secretary at the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, BK Chaturvedi, told the Reuters news service.

"In fact, we must have $1bn invested every year overseas for the next 10 to 15 years."

The news is likely to spark criticism from market watchers who suggest India has vast untapped reserves that are not being exploited.

Gas exploration

India consumes about 100m tonnes of oil a year and this is predicted to rise to 350m tonnes a year by 2035 as the economy grows.

Mr Chaturvedi said investments would centre on exploration and appraisal deals as the opportunity to invest in already discovered reserves was limited.

His comments came as India invited bids for nine Coal Bed Methane (CBM) blocks for exploration and production of gas.

Petroleum minister Ram Naik said CBM could help bridge the gap between domestic demand and current supply.

Pakistan's petrol minister meanwhile, Nourez Shakoor, said ministers from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan had formally invited India to join the planned Iran-Pakistan-India regional natural gas pipeline project.

"The gas market is India, so it's beneficial for them," said Mr Shakoor.

No rigs?

India's state exploration firm Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has been involved in a number of overseas projects in the last year.

In March, it spent $750m on a 25% in Sudan's Greater Nile project.

And the group announced on Friday that it had bid to acquire two more exploration blocks in Sudan.

But ONGC's domestic projects have been held back by a shortage of drilling rigs, according to Petrowatch, a research group into India's oil and gas market.

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