Shale gas policy in the pipeline

Shale gas policy in the pipeline

Shale gas policy in the pipeline

The Centre has initiated steps to assess the availability of non-conventional shale gas in select on-land basins in the country as a precursor to unveiling a policy on its exploration.

The move comes as domestic production of gas is finding it difficult to keep pace with rapidly growing demand.

“We are assessing the availability of shale gas in the country to formulate a policy. Before formulating the policy, we have to complete the resource assessment, carve out blocks and then finalise terms and conditions of exploration,” a senior government official told Deccan Herald. However, the government is yet to draw up a timeline to unveil the proposed policy on shale gas exploration.

Shale is a common rock formation. Gas has long been found in shale across the world, but its extraction has so far been considered uneconomical because of its low permeab­ility, or flow through the rock. However, in recent years, the US has made rapid progress in producing shale gas to augment supplies to meet the growing demand. Besides the US, China too has made giant strides in the exploration of shale gas. According to official Chinese estimates last year, the country has about 31 trillion cubic meters of exploitable shale gas reserves.

India has huge shale depos­its across the Gangetic plain, Assam, Gujarat, Rajasthan and many coastal areas, but the government has not turned its focus on its exploration till date. In the past, the government has admitted to some difficulties in coming out with a policy on shale gas and postp­o­ned it to the next calendar ye­ar.

Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy said recently government was in the process of exchanging notes with international experts on the prospects of shale gas exploration in the country.

The need for a policy has become a pressing one given the fact that by 2030, India’s dependence on energy imports is likely to exceed 53 per cent of the country’s total energy consumption.

Huge imports

The country is already importing close to 160 million tonnes of crude oil - or 80 per cent of needs in 2009-10.

Energy experts have been pressing the government to speed up a decision on shale gas.

These experts are also of the view that any delay in exploration of shale gas in the country, which is one of the fastest growing energy markets globally, will only slow down the economic growth process. India is expected to be the second-largest contributor to the increase in global energy demand by 2035.

Therefore, “shale gas can be the best alternative and can reduce the country’s dependence on other countries for energy supplies,” an energy expert said. 

Experts’ version

Experts have also suggested commencing seismic surveys to delineate potential shale gas deposits which would help the government invite bids for its exploration.

According to an official of Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, there are a number of issues, such as land acquisition, environmental concerns that are delaying a policy on shale gas. Shale gas requires huge land. 

Besides, as of now, the country’s exploration policy allows production of only conventional oil and gas by companies. For non-conventional energy, there has to be separate bidding.