Upstream producers ONGC and OIL made good nearly half of the revenue loss or under-recoveries that fuel retailers incurred on selling cooking fuel and diesel until recently at government controlled rates.
This subsidy contribution was by way of discount on crude oil they sold to the downstream firms and it was capped at $56 per barrel in 2013.
But with global oil prices tumbling to their lowest level since April 2009, the continuation of the subsidy-sharing formula would mean that ONGC will not just have to sell crude oil to refiners like Indian Oil Corp (IOC) for free but also pay another $6 per barrel from its pocket.
In such a scenario, the government is considering exempting ONGC and OIL from payment of subsidy during reminder of the current fiscal year, sources privy to the development said.
On Thursday, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had stated that the government was reworking the subsidy-sharing formula.
Sources said subsidy burden on upstream oil companies has increased from Rs 32,000 crore or 30 per cent of the total under-recovery in 2008-09 to Rs 67,021 crore (48 per cent of the total under-recovery) in 2013-14.
In 2013-14, ONGC paid a record Rs 56,384 crore subsidy.
This has significantly constrained the capacity of these companies to increase their exploration efforts in difficult areas, thereby adversely affecting the country's domestic oil production.
Under-recoveries during current fiscal are pegged at around Rs 73,000 crore.
Of this, about Rs 51,000 crore have already been accounted for in first half where ONGC paid Rs 26,841 crore subsidy, OIL Rs 4085 crore and GAIL Rs 1000 crore. Government provided cash subsidy to cover the rest of it.
For the remainder of the fiscal, another Rs 21,000-22,000 crore of under-recoveries are estimated which can easily be met by government subsidy from budget and sparing ONGC, they said.
Sources said the oil ministry is of the view that unless sufficient funds are available for increased oil recovery and enhanced oil recovery schemes from the ageing oil fields, the country may notionally lose more than 70 million tonnes of indigenous crude oil production during next 10 years.
This may increase the import bill by Rs 3,33,000 crore. However, if this crude is produced indigenously, it will cost only Rs 112,000 crore resulting in a substantial saving of Rs 2,21,000 crore.
Shares in ONGC ended 2.77 per cent higher at Rs 351.05 apiece on the BSE while Oil India shares finished over 3 per cent higher. Indian Oil stock finished down 0.55 per cent.