Cairn on brink of big win in India oil gamble

NEW DELHI, August 25, 2009 (AFP) – Oil entrepreneur Bill Gammell took a big gamble 12 years ago — and his winnings look set to start rolling in as Cairn Energy, the company he heads, begins to pump oil from under western India. Cairn aims to draw 175,000 barrels of oil per day — accounting for close to 25 percent of India’s current crude oil output — from its fields in the desert state of Rajasthan by 2011.

“It’s five years since the discovery in Mangala in Rajasthan and it’s now on the verge of producing its first oil,” Gammell, Cairn’s chairman and founder, announced proudly to shareholders last week.

A company official, who did not wish to be named, on Monday said Cairn expected to start pumping in Rajasthan within days.

Gammell, a lanky former Scottish rugby star, took a punt in the late 1990s when he sold off Cairn’s North Sea assets and bet — to the bemusement of many industry watchers — on Rajasthan, which he believed was underexplored.

Rajasthan, better known for its royal palaces and former princes, had not seen any “gushers” when Gammell started buying the rights in 1997 to Anglo-Dutch giant Shell’s oil blocks in the state.

Shell had drilled 10 holes but had little to show for it a