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BP gets ready for methane hunt in Bengal

Calcutta, March 24: BP, one of the largest integrated oil companies in the world, is set to begin exploration drilling in Birbhum district of Bengal soon.

The company, formerly known as British Petroleum, will search for coal bed methane (CBM) here.

This is the first exploration work that the global giant with a revenue of over $365 billion is taking up in India.

“Our preparations are in the final stages. We hope to begin drilling work in the next few weeks,” a BP official told The Telegraph on Tuesday.

It has received all the necessary clearances for the project, including the Union environment ministry’s approval.

The area of the block is over 248 square kilometres. However, the company will not require more than 50 acres for exploration activities, which will be done over four-and-a-half years.

Industry experts see good potential for the block in Birbhum, which has large unexplored coal deposits.

The first commercial production of coal bed methane in the country is taking place in the Ranigunj-Asansol belt of Burdwan, which is not far from Birbhum. Great Eastern Energy Corporation Ltd is undertaking production.

ONGC and Essar are also exploring CBM in the state.

However, this is the first time a global oil and gas giant such as BP is doing significant exploration work in Bengal, which has so far been unlucky in petroleum.

Coal bed methane is a form of natural gas which is extracted from coal beds. It has become an important source of energy in recent years, especially to generate power and for heating.

BP has over 30 years of experience in CBM in the US, the most important market for the gas. CBM, which is predominantly methane, can also be used as auto fuel in the form of compressed natural gas.

The company plans to drill eight core holes and five test wells in the first phase in two years. In the second phase, 15 production wells will be drilled.

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