GEO ExPro

Licencing Update: India

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announces a new Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP).
This article appeared in Vol. 15, No. 3 - 2018

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India Announces New Hydrocarbon & Exploration Policy

India currently imports 80% of its oil needs. As a result, in 2017 the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced a new Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) to assist the country reach its target of reducing import dependency on oil and gas by 10% by 2022 by bringing about 2.8 million kilometres of virgin acreage in the country under exploration.

What Are The Main Features of the HELP Policy?

The main facets of the HELP policy include:

  • a single licence for exploration and production of all forms of hydrocarbons;
  • an open acreage licensing programme;
  • a new revenue sharing model;
  • and marketing and pricing freedom for all crude oil and natural gas produced.


The open acreage idea is an important aspect; companies can make their own assessments of areas not currently under production or exploration and propose their own block outline through an ‘Expression of Interest’. Twice a year these will be accumulated and offered for auction, with the company that originally selected the area getting a five-mark advantage. Blocks will be awarded to the company which offers the highest share of oil and gas to the government as well as commits to undertake maximum exploration work by way of shooting 2D and 3D seismic surveys and drilling exploration wells.

Licence Round Success for India

In the first Open Acreage round 55 blocks were offered, 46 on land and nine marine, covering a total area of nearly 60,000 km2. The blocks were in ten sedimentary basins spread across the whole of India, from the Himalayan Foreland in the north to the southern Cauvery Basin, with 19 in the eastern Assam-Arakan Basin.

Top 13 Petroleum Basins in India

Indian yet-to-find hydrocarbon resources by basin. Image source: Directorate General of Hydrocarbon (DGH)

  • Mumbai Offshore
  • Krishna-Godavari
  • Assam Shelf
  • Rajasthan-Barmer
  • Cambay
  • Cauvery
  • Assam-Arakan
  • Saurashtra
  • Kutch
  • Rajasthan-Jaisalmer
  • Rajasthan-Bikaner
  • Ganga-Punjab
  • Himalayan Foreland


The round closed on 2 May 2018, and the Directorate General of Hydrocarbon (DGH), the upstream technical arm of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, announced that 110 bids had been received, with every block attracting at least one bid offer. All the bids came from Indian companies, with no interest from international ones. They will now be evaluated, and the government says it will announce the awards of the blocks by June 2018.

Under the previous system of delineated block rounds, 254 blocks had been awarded for exploration and production since 2000, and 156 have already been relinquished due to poor prospectivity.

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