India started its auction for the delayed eighth round of oil and gas blocks on 8 August, targeting $3bn in exploration investments under its new exploration and licensing policy (NELP-VIII).

Seventy exploration blocks – 24 deepwater, 28 shallow water and 18 on-land blocks – are on offer across the country.

The new offer, the largest so far, is aimed at meeting the growing oil needs of the country and reducing hydrocarbon imports, which account for about 70% of the country’s total consumption, according to Indian Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora.

The government also kicked off its fourth round of bidding for coal bed methane, for which ten gas blocks are under the hammer.

The government has been promoting private investments in exploration and encouraging local companies to invest in foreign oil and gas projects, offering a seven-year income tax break to promoters of prospects offered under NELP.

According to a report by news agency Reuters, about 119 companies expressed interest in the fields, including 14 foreign companies and financial institutions.