Calcutta, Dec. 11: Huge gas finds by Reliance off the Orissa coast could mean a windfall for Bengal with the Mukesh Ambani company planning to lay a pipeline to Haldia where a chemical hub is being developed.
Reliance and partner Niko Resources of Canada have made six gas discoveries in a row ' whose size could be 2 to 3 trillion cubic feet ' in an offshore deepwater block named NEC-25.
The consortium plans to ferry the natural gas to markets near Calcutta, 240 km to the northeast from the site of the finds, through an undersea or overland pipeline.
In either case, the pipeline is likely to go through Haldia, southwest of Calcutta, which already has petrochemical and chemical industries.
Reliance, Indiaís largest petrochemical company, has already told the Bengal government that it plans to invest in the proposed chemical hub at Haldia.
The Centre is setting up two such parks in the country, and Haldia has been chosen because itís a port town.
Once the gas starts arriving, many energy-intensive industries may consider switching from coal and furnace oil to natural gas because it is cheaper and environment-friendly.
With at least two special economic zones slated to come up in Bengal ' one at Kulpi and the other at Haldia ' there will be no dearth of demand for Reliance.
Oil and gas industry experts say it usually takes one-and-a-half to two years to lay a pipeline after a contract is awarded for the job.
It will take about the same time to develop the gas finds for commercial use. Both processes can carry on simultaneously.
If Reliance awards both contracts next year, the gas may be available in Bengal by 2008. Reliance will be competing with the government-owned GAIL India Ltd, which also plans to extend its national gas pipeline network to the state.
According to an estimate, Bengal now requires 16 million standard cubic metres of gas for its existing industries. The demand will rise substantially once the gas is available here, experts said.
The Reliance-Niko duo has appointed a leading consultant on international reserves to make estimates of the six gas discoveries. Reliance officials have so far declined to comment on the development plan and the size of the reserves.
The consortium has explored only a part of the block spread over 3.5 million acres. There could be many more finds in the unexplored area.
Reliance had earlier stunned the world by announcing the biggest gas find of 2002 off the Krishna-Godavari basin.