India to Explore for Shale Gas
Shale gas is the next buzz word in the Indian hydrocarbon scene. To facilitate fast track exploration of Shale gas, the Ministry for Petroleum and Natural Gas expects that the process of carving out suitable blocks will be completed by April 2011. This would allow floating of the first round of auctions of shale gas blocks in August next year.
“The Government has worked out a road map based on which, by May 2011, we hope to have a policy framework in place exclusively for shale gas, so that the blocks can be put on offer by August,” the Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr Jitin Prasada, told Business Line.
“The framework will be formulated after studying the international fiscal and contractual regimes for shale gas development,” he said adding that “Resource assessment and identification of Shale gas prospective areas is expected to be completed by March 2011.”
The Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) is working on the policy framework, which would also need to define the role of the State Governments in the development of shale gas.
The floating of blocks will also mean that domestic companies such as Reliance Industries Ltd that have been acquiring shale gas assets overseas can look for opportunities in the country.
Shale gas is an unconventional source of energy which is found in non-porous rock. It has become an important source of natural gas in the US and interest in it has spread in Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. In India, shale gas deposits are found in the basins of Gondwana (Central India), Assam-Arakan (North-East), Cambay (Gujarat), Rajasthan, Krishna Godavari (East Coast) and Cauvery.
Hydrocarbon exploration and production companies such as ONGC (in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Cambay Basin), Cairn India (Rajasthan), and Joshi Technologies International (JTI), a multi-national hydrocarbon producer (in Cambay Basin), are working on shale gas prospects in the country.
Currently, gas consumption in the country is 168 mscmd, of this about 130 mscmd is produced domestically. By 2015, the demand for gas in the country is estimated to be approximately 300 mscmd.
To get better technology support, which would help in bringing down the cost of production of Shale gas, an accord is also expected to be signed on shale gas technology during the US President Barack Obama's visit next month. The US has successfully exploited its shale gas reserves, which currently account for 20 per cent of its gas production.
With different types of gas sources – natural gas, R-LNG, coal bed methane, and shale gas – the pricing of the fuel will also play an important role. Cost to develop shale gas has come down over the years. Four years ago, according to studies, a shale gas project was viable at a gas price of $ 6/mbtu and now it is viable at $3/mBtu.