Energy deals between Indian and Russian oil and gas majors in upstream and downstream sectors could be "firmed up" by February, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora has said.
"(Russian Prime Minister Viktor) Zubkov has assured India of Moscow's backing in its quest for energy security by adopting a favourable approach and transforming the bilateral cooperation in hydrocarbons as one of the main planks of Indo-Russian strategic partnership," Deora told reporters in Moscow on Monday after holding talks with the Russian premier and other senior Moscow officials.
Deora arrived in Moscow on Sunday on a two-day visit and his meeting with Zubkov was a follow-up of the successful summit between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.
Deora said that Indian Oil Corp, ONGC and OVL (the foreign operations arm of ONGC) and Russia's Rosneft and Gazprom are in dialogue to "concretise" mutually beneficial projects in upstream, mid-stream and downstream sectors.
He said some deals could be "firmed up" by February, when Zubkov will visit India to inaugurate the 'Year of Russia' and is expected to take with him a large business delegation to attend the second Indo-Russian Trade and Investment Forum in New Delhi.
Deora, who is accompanied by the Petroleum Secretary and top brass of the Indian hydrocarbons majors, underscored that the focus was to go beyond the successful Sakhalin-1 project in which OVL has 20 per cent stake. He evinced India's interest in Kiriinsky Block of Sakhalin-3 offshore project with Rosneft, which has yet to pick a partner.
Deora and Zubkov agreed that the energy majors of the two nations should concretise projects in the field of exploration and production, grassroot refineries, modernization and upgrading of refineries, gas-based petrochemical plants, gas processing plants including its liquefaction in India, Russia and third countries.
He said that new opportunities are opening for Russian investments in India's downstream projects including the refining capacity.
With the estimated investments of USD 20-22 billion in the 11th five-year plan, the growing refining and petrochemical sectors offer immense opportunities for the Russian companies, Deora said.
The idea of Russian involvement in the downstream sector in India to offset Indian investments in upstream oil and gas projects in Russia was first voiced by Deora during his visit last year. However, he conceded that there has been "little or no" progress since then.