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Government notifies incentives to oil PSUs in pre-NELP blocks

Till now ONGC and OIL had to pay 100 per cent royalty and cess tax on 11 pre-New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) fields that were given to private firms prior to 1999.

Aug 15, 2018, 05.42 PM IST
Representative image.
The government has notified a new policy requiring state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd (ONGC) and Oil India Ltd (OIL) to pay royalty and cess tax only to the extent of their equity holding in certain pre-1999 oil and gas fields.

The 'Policy Framework for Streamlining the Working of Production Sharing Contracts in respect of Pre-NELP and NELP Blocks' was notified in the Gazette of India yesterday, according to the Gazette notification.

Till now ONGC and OIL had to pay 100 per cent royalty and cess tax on 11 pre-New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) fields that were given to private firms prior to 1999.

The government had awarded some discovered oil and gas fields to private firms in the 1990s with a view to attracting investments in the country.

To incentivise such investments, the liability of payment of statutory levies like royalty and cess was put on state-owned firms, who were made licensees of the blocks. ONGC and Oil India Ltd were allowed right to back in or take an interest of 30-40 per cent in the fields, but were liable to pay 100 per cent of the statutory levies.

The new rule, which last month approved by the Cabinet, will apply to 11 fields like Dholka field in Gujarat that is operated by Joshi Oil and Gas. It will also apply to Hindustan Oil Exploration Company (HOEC)-operated PY-1 field in Cauvery basin.

"In pre-NELP exploration blocks, the National Oil Companies, as Licensee are liable for payment of royalty, cess and other statutory charges on entire production of oil and gas.

"To facilitate further investments, the Government has decided that the contractors in pre-NELP exploration blocks will be allowed to share the liability of the statutory levies including royalty, cess and any other charges in proportion to their respective participating interests (PIs) in the block," the notification said.

All the constituents of the blocks would become licensees and payments made towards such statutory levies shall be eligible for cost recovery. It means that like capital and operating expense, the statutory levies can now be first recovered from the sale of hydrocarbons before sharing the profits with the government.

These are the same conditions that ONGC had insisted upon in 2010 when Vedanta bought Cairn Energy plc's 70 per cent stake in the prolific Barmer basin oil block in Rajasthan. ONGC, which held 30 per cent stake in the block, gave approval to the deal only when Vedanta agreed to pay royalty and cess on its 70 per cent share.

Royalty for onland block is presently 20 per cent. An equivalent amount of cess is also levied.

Also, the notification extended the time period given to oil and gas companies to develop hydrocarbon blocks in the northeast. Production from these blocks will be linked to market prices of natural gas.

It also extended tax benefits under Section 42 of Income Tax, 1961 prospectively to operational blocks under pre-NELP discovered fields for the extended period of the contract.

Section 42 of Income Tax allows the companies to claim 100 per cent of expenditure incurred under a production sharing contract (PSC) as tax deductible for computing taxable income in the same year.

While signing PSC of pre-NELP discovered fields, 13 contracts out of 28 contracts did not have provision for tax benefit under Section 42 of Income-tax Act. Now, this will bring uniformity and consistency in PSCs and provide an incentive to the contractor to make an additional investment during the extended period of PSC, it said.

The approvals given are expected to help in ensuring the expeditious development of hydrocarbon resources.

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Oil India holds participatory interest in 27 NELP blocks: Chairman

Oil ministry plans to relaunch Nelp X to bring simpler sharing of revenues

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