Upbeat Minister Gammanpila says success in gas and oil exploration can save national economy

Udaya Prabath Gammanpila

Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila has claimed that the USD 267 billion worth of oil and gas resources in the Mannar Basin could generate three times the total debt of the country. The Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader said so at the Consultative Committee on Energy held in Parliament on Tuesday (07).

The Minister said that though those who had invested in oil and gas exploration were given 50% of the income, Sri Lanka would receive USD 133.5 billion and it is almost three times the total debt of the country which amounts to USD 47 billion.

The Minister made this observation while briefing the Committee on the Petroleum Resources Bill to be tabled in Parliament for the second reading. Accordingly, the Bill was approved by the Committee.

The Minister said the Bill, which sought to regulate and manage the exploration of petroleum resources, including the establishment of the Petroleum Development Authority of Sri Lanka, will be presented to Parliament as a matter of priority for the Government.

Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila said that the Norochcholai power plant could operate for 120 years only from the gas in the Mannar Basin and the Sapugaskanda oil refinery could operate for 143 years with the locally tapped oil alone.

Although our neighbouring country India has been extracting oil and gas from the seas close to Sri Lanka since the 1940s, Sri Lanka has missed it due to various reasons. After lengthy discussions with experts on the subject, it was identified that there were several reasons that contributed to the aforesaid failure, Minister said.

Adding that large companies around the world had not come to explore oil resources in Sri Lanka in the recent past due to various reasons.”We took steps to hand over this task to experts on the subject matter through the establishment of the Petroleum Development Authority given the lack of understanding on the scope of the subject by the officials who were to take decisions in this regard previously. Also, as the regulatory powers such as the issuance of licenses were completely concentrated in the hands of the Minister, all activities had been disrupted when there was a change of the Minister. Therefore, we have decided to transfer all the powers of the Minister to the Board of Directors of this Authority. Also, a modern map was prepared to replace the existing traditional map for oil and gas exploration” the Minister added.

The Bill would also introduce a strong legal framework to protect those large investments and appoint a special committee to advise the Minister, as billions of dollars would have to be invested in the industry, the Minister of Energy said.

Furthermore, in general, a country would succeed in one after drilling seven wells in search of oil and gas according to world standards. The Norwegian government had to dig 31 wells for one success story whilst 3 out of 4 wells drilled in Sri Lanka were successful, the Minister said.

He also said that he intended to seek the assistance of Sri Lankan experts in the field from around the world.

Committee Members State Minister Jayantha Samaraweera, Members of Parliament Chandima Weerakkody, Nalin Bandara, Muditha Prishanthi, Gunathilaka Rajapaksha, B.Y.G Ratnasekera and Secretary to the Ministry Mrs. K.D.R. Olga were present at the meeting.

(Source: The Island)