Before 1987, ONGC and Oil India Ltd fixed gas prices. But from January-end 1987 the government began regulating prices on a cost-plus basis. The last revision under this so-called administered price mechanism was effective July 2005. When the government began bidding out oil and gas blocks under the New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP), it opted for market determined rates for gas.
The producer enjoyed marketing freedom but needed to get the pricing formula approved through ‘arm’s length pricing’. (This is a transaction where buyers and sellers act independently. They have no relationship with each other. This ensures that both parties are acting in their own self interest and are not subject to any pressure or duress from the other party). In 2006 the first controversy began when Reliance Industries invited bids from users and arrived at a price of $4.32 per million metric British thermal units. The matter was referred to an empowered group of ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee which agreed on a price of $4.20 a unit after suggesting a few changes to RIL’s formula, including elements to do away with volatility. Read more