Future fossil fuel exploration by Natural Oil and Gas Co.: Regulations must reflect the risks: PRDS DG

  • Risks include potential oil spills


The Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat (PRDS) is in the process of reviewing the drafts for the new regulations pertaining to risk factors associated with fossil fuel exploration by the proposed National Oil and Gas Company, The Morning learnt.

The National Oil and Gas Company which is to be introduced to handle the State’s new commercial interests in oil and gas exploration will be monitored by the Petroleum Resources Development Authority of Sri Lanka (PRADSL), which is due to be established following the introduction of a new Petroleum Resources Act (PRA).

“The drafts need to be reviewed against the new Act which would look into the regulatory aspects from exploration to operation, construction, and production. Removing the risk factor in these processes should be the focus of our conversation,” PRDS Director General Surath Ovitigama told The Morning on 3 February.

Under the new PRA, the PRADSL would function as the regulatory body, monitoring the procedures of the National Oil and Gas Company. According to Ovitigama, if Sri Lanka is to move into oil exploration and production, the regulations must reflect the risk factors that are involved.

“I looked at some of the disasters that have happened around the world and thought that we are a small, beautiful country which cannot afford that. All these things that we have been doing with regard to exploration and development has to be done with minimum impact on the treasures we have – our marine environment, our beaches, and the fisheries resource,” said Ovitigama.

The MT New Diamond oil tanker, owned by the Greek company Porto Emporios Shipping Inc. caught fire in September 2020, while in Sri Lankan waters. Although the fire was eventually put out, environmentalists raised concerns since the country’s coastal belt is home to several sensitive ecosystems and marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.

Exploration for fossil fuel was initially handled by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CEYPETCO) and this was halted during the conflict years. Eventually in 2003, under the existing Act, the PRDS was set up. As a step forward, a new Act would be brought in to turn the PRDS into an authoritative body, which would look into the new National Oil and Gas Company.