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India offers simpler permits, tax sops and freedom from pricing restrictions to operators who are willing to invest in developing its smaller fields

India is expected to be the next China in terms of demand growth for energy, and now the country is hoping to attract wildcatters and risk-takers willing to develop its smaller oil and gas fields. India’s $2 trillion economy imports roughly 77% of its crude oil and natural gas, making it heavily dependent on other producers, something Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would like to change.

The South Asian country is hoping to find operators to develop 67 already-discovered small fields, which hold about 625 million barrels of oil and gas, Bloomberg reports.

India is expected to surpass Japan as the world’s third-largest oil user this year, according to information from the IEA. The country will be the fastest-growing crude consumer in the world through 2040, adding 6 MMBOPD of demand, compared to 4.8 MMBOPD for China.

“Entrepreneurs who have capped their wells in Alberta or North Dakota will be looking at this kind of a story with a greater amount of interest, as there’s very little to look forward to in their own fronts,” said Atanu Chakraborty, the head of oil regulator the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons.

The government is trying to attract anyone it can with the resources necessary to develop its oil and gas assets. India is offering incentives such as simpler permits, tax sops and freedom from pricing restrictions to overcome the deterrent that low oil prices pose to boosting production.

Investors remain wary of India, however, as companies such as Canada’s Niko Resources Ltd. (ticker: NKO) and Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy Plc (ticker: CNE) grew their Indian business by starting in smaller fields, but the companies have faced challenges ranging from arbitration spats with the government, to tax disputes.

Chakraborty said he is planning roadshows in North America, the U.K., Singapore and some Indian cities to find interested operators.

“We’re looking at people who are able to take risk intelligently,” Chakraborty said. “Those are the kind of nimble entrepreneurs we are looking at. Four to five years down the line, we’ll have at least four to five good companies who would be in a position to take on larger risks.”


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