Monday, June 11, 2012

Two oil survey/exploration companies pulling out of Nepal

Texana Resources Company and Cairn Energy are stopping survey work citing “force majeure”, which “frees a party from fulfilling an obligation in the event of circumstances going beyond its control.” The reason given by the two companies: bureaucratic hurdles and lack of cooperation from the government.

The Houston-based Texana flashed its plans on June 1 while Cairn, a Scottish oil and gas company, did so on June 8. Officials at the Department of Mines and Geology confirmed that the two companies had announced their plans to stop work. This is not the first time that Texana and Cairn have invoked force majeure. They have halted work in the past citing volatile political and security situation.

Both have already spent millions of dollars in Nepal on preliminary surveys and were now all set for a 'seismic operation,’ which determines whether the surveyed areas contain commercially viable quantities of oil. To date, Texana has spent US$3 million and Cairn US$20 million in the country. The two companies pay an annual fee of US$ 50,000 per 'block’ to the Nepal government. They have also deposited US$ 400,000 each as bank guarantees.

Six years later, Cairn received a licence to explore five other blocks--Block 1 (Dhangadhi), Block 2 (Karnali), Block 4 (Lumbini), Block 6 (Birgunj) and Block 7 (Malangawa).

But trouble started brewing in December 2011 when Texana applied to the Department of Mines to transfer its rights and obligations to the Canada-based Patriot Petroleum Corp. Texana and Patriot had signed a sales and purchase agreement under which Texana would assign to Patriot all its interests under a petroleum agreement for exploration of Block 3 (Nepalgunj) and Block 5 (Chitwan).

Clause 64 of the Nepal government and Texana agreement allows the US-based company to transfer its project to any other company, and the government has to endorse it within 60 days of request. Till date, the Department of Mines has not approved Texana’s application.

Cairn had asked the department to amend its work plan one-and-a-half-years ago in order to address a request for a new work plan, which is yet to be endorsed. “Our decision to declare force majeure is primarily based on the government's delay in endorsing our work plan amendment,” said Bharat Gyawali, the local representative of Cairn.

I smell corruption here! Btw, in 2010, FDI inflows to Nepal was just $38.99 million.