Monday, November 19, 2007

RIL buys copters for offshore work

Source: Economictimes

Reliance Industries will begin operating its own helicopters in its hunt for oil from next month. The company will take deliveries of two Bell 412 machines in the second week of December. RIL has increased its oil exploration acreage over the years and is now prospecting for oil as well as developing oilfields on both coasts of India.

The Indian oil major joins several global majors like Shell and Qatar Petroleum who have their own aviation operations for offshore support. ONGC is the other Indian oil major that has made the backward integration into helicopters through its stake in Pawan Hans.

RIL’s fleet is likely to go up in the future as offshore activities grow. The company now relies on machines chartered from other operators. Helicopters are used extensively in offshore oil exploration primarily to move men and material.

RIL has floated a tender inviting bids to operate and maintain the machines. The two helicopters will be maintained by a third-party operator in the initial period, it is learnt.

Finding pilots and engineers to maintain aircraft has become very difficult because of the huge growth in oil exploration activity.

Sources in the helicopter charter business say high oil prices have led to increased mobilisation in the Gulf region as well as countries like Nigeria and Indonesia. Like most other oilfield services, helicopter charter rates too have shot up as a result and so have crew salaries. Indian offshore operators like Global Vectra have recently begun employing expat helicopter pilots.