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INDIA’S biggest oil explorer ONGC and biggest company by market cap, Reliance Industries (RIL) have acquired equity stakes in three Latin American oil blocks. ONGC’s overseas arm OVL has picked up 40% participating interest in San Cristabel block in Venezuela for $450 million, while its private sector peer RIL has picked up stakes in another two block.

OVL will sign an agreement with state-run Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the biggest crude oil exporter to US, with the operatorship remaining with the Venezuelan firm. “The Venezuelan oil block has reserves of around 250-million tonne. A team of government and company officials is scheduled to leave for Venezuela to sign the agreement,” petroleum minister Murli Deora said.

RIL will have majority stakes in atleast one of the oil blocks in Latin America, Atul Chandra, president of company’s international business said. He refused to divulge any further information citing absence of regulatory approvals.

OVL is present in 29 oil and gas projects spread over 15 countries. During the last one year, OVL ventured into two new countries- Turkmenistan and Congo Brazzaville, and secured equity participation in 11 oil and gas projects in 6 countries.

RIL is present in three exploration blocks in Yemen, two each in Oman and Columbia and one each in East Timor and Australia covering an area of about 38,000 sq km.

Besides, RIL has also signed a technical evaluation agreement with ANH (Columbia’s hydrocarbon regulator) and has entered into a cooperation agreement with Ecopetrol (National Oil Company of Columbia) for exploring opportunities in that country.

India, Asia’s third-biggest oil consumer, is competing with China for securing oil equities abroad. India, world’s fastest-growing major economy after China, depends on imports for 70% of its oil needs. India will spend $300 billion over the next five to seven years on oil exploration and production. The domestic exploration and production business will become a $5.2 trillion industry in the next five to seven years, said petroleum secretary MS Srinivasan while delivering his key note address at an CII oil and gas event.

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