The quest for petroleum in the Indian subcontinent began in 1825, when army officers reported seepages of oil on the banks of the Dehing River in the dense jungles of upper Assam. The first commercial find took place in Digboi in 1889 and the first geophysical surveys (torsion balance) were conducted by Eötvös Geophysical Institute in 1925. Thereafter, in the preindependence era, there were negligible exploration efforts by private oil companies as the sedimentary basins in India, other than Assam, were not considered prospective.

After independence, development of the petroleum industry was considered imperative and two state-owned oil companies—ONGC and...

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