Shale gas mission to US

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By R. SURYAMURTHY
  • Published 6.07.10
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New Delhi, July 5: India is keen on American help in shale gas.

A team comprising oil ministry officials and the director-general of hydrocarbons (DGH) are slated to visit Washington next month to discuss areas of cooperation.

Officials said it would be prudent to collaborate with the US, the biggest producer of shale gas.

The Centre is likely to seek the assistance of the US Geological Survey to identify reserves, transfer technology required to tap them and finalise a policy for exploration within a year and a half. The government plans to offer sites for exploration by 2012.

DGH S.K. Srivastava said the oil regulator was working on a shale gas policy.

“Several basins in India are known to hold shale gas resources. Our focus is on three basins — Cambay (in Gujarat), Assam-Arakan (in the Northeast) and Gondwana (in central India),” he said

According to preliminary estimates, shale gas reserves in the country may be larger than proven conventional gas deposits. New technologies such as horizontal drilling and sand cracking have made extraction more economical.

Extraction involves tapping natural gas trapped between layers of shale rock, similar to the extraction of gas from coal seams.

Srivastava said the country would need to change exploration laws to produce shale gas, because current licences do not include tapping unconventional sources.

Shale gas has proven to be hugely successful in the US, significantly reducing the country’s dependence on imported LNG. It can also help India to bolster its energy security.

The presence of reserves has been known for a long time, but the technology to facilitate commercial exploitation was developed only recently.

The huge potential of shale gas has prompted Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited to undertake some strategic deals in the US.

Last month, Reliance agreed to pay $1.36 billion for a 45 per cent stake in the Eagle Fort project of Pioneer Natural Resources.