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NEWS & VIEWS
Canadian firm hopes to sell 25% stake in Sudan oil project by month end.
ONGC Videsh may bag Talisman stake.


THE PIONEER

Canadian Talisman Energy Inc has said it hopes to complete sale of 25 per cent stake in a Sudan oil field to ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) by March end.

" The government of Sudan supports Talisman's sale to OVL and we are working towards that objective. We continue to expect sale completion within March." a company spokesperson said.

OVL could not go through its $720 million deal to buy Talisman's stake as partners in the Greater Nile Oil Project (GNOP) blocked the deal.

Partners in GNOP - Petronas (30 percent), CNPC of China (40 per cent ) and Sudan's national oil company Sudapest (5 per cent )- hold the first right of refusal if anyone of them decides to exit the project.

" Although there have been delays, completion of the Sudan sale is progressing. Discussions have progressed between the government of Sudan and the other owners of the Greater Nile Oil Project and consent documentation is being finalized," the spokesperson said.

The deal has been referred to Sudan government after Petronas and CNPC exercised their contractual first right to buy, the sources said, adding India would get 3 million tones of crude oil annually from the stake in the producing field.

Sources said OVL would take over all the 80-odd employees of Talisman to step into the Canadian firm's job of managing the 1,500-km pipeline connecting the producing fields to port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Talisman's share of revenue from sale of oil produced from Greater Nile Project is being escrowed to OVL account from September 1, 2002, the date on which the sale price of $720 million was frozen.

OVL would pay interest on $720 million from September 1 till the payment is made, they said, adding OVL will make cash payments to Talisman in April.

ONGC, which has already put in place a team headed by A.K. Mehra to take over Talisman Energy's operations, is exploring shipping the light crude oil produced from the Sudan field for processing at its latest acquisition Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL).

"For an initial period of 3-4 months , the existing contracts would be honoured to sell India's share of crude. By then MRPL would be configured to process Sudan crude." Sourced said.

Greater Nile Oil Project consists of four blocks in the Muglad Basin and a 1,500 km pipeline from the producing fields to port Sudan on the Red Sea. It currently produces 12 million tones of oil annually (240,000 barrels per day) from the 600-1200 million barrel Heglig and Unity fields.

The field has oil reserves of 176 million barrels and more oil is likely to be discovered upon complete development of the field.




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