Calcutta, Aug. 19: After decades of luckless attempts, an oil company may be able to gift Bengal a gas find this Puja.
In confirmation of a report earlier in this paper that preliminary surveys suggested strong chances of striking gas off the shore of Bengal, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation has said after drilling the first well in the Bay of Bengal it is “fairly positive” about the prospect.
“We have found indications of gas and they are good,” an ONGC official said.
The company has drilled up to the depth of 4,278 metres in the seabed and it will go a few hundred metres more.
Once the drilling is complete, a production test will be carried out. The result, which might break the jinx for a state that has chased the dream of commercially viable hydrocarbon reserves for decades, will be known by Puja.
“We are keen to break through this time. We will eagerly wait for the production test result which will finally say if there is enough gas to commercially produce. The estimate will be known before Puja,” the official added.
ONGC, which has been working in the block about 70-90 km southeast of the Sandheads (see map) since March, will eventually drill four exploratory wells.
Before the start of drilling, it was estimated that the block could have a reserve of 5-10 million tonnes of oil or oil equivalent of gas. After drilling the first well, the company believes there are no reasons to think otherwise.
“However, the production test result will confirm everything,” the official said. The oil industry is usually cautious about discoveries.
ONGC, which has employed the drilling ship Trans Novo Nordisk to work the shallow water block, has already carried out survey and data processing and interpretation of the data.
Claims have been made in the past that Bengal is floating in a pool of oil, but exploration carried out by ONGC in as many as 46 locations have proved futile.
Initial indications this time cannot really be compared to what happened on the earlier occasions, as most of them are much too far back in time, but a spate of recent discoveries in the Bay of Bengal inspires confidence.
Apart from the gigantic gas discovery by Reliance and a few smaller ones by ONGC in the Krishna-Godavari basin in offshore Andhra, Reliance has also struck gas closer home in offshore Mahanadi in Orissa.
Initial reports trickling in from a block near Digha, being explored by the Gail-Gazprom combine, are also encouraging.
ONGC has spent Rs 175 crore on the survey and data processing and is putting another Rs 400 crore in drilling.