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Face-Off: Learning to learn

Face-Off: Learning to learn

The US Department of State has undertaken the “Global Shale Gas Initiative” which represents nearly 20 countries, 10 US federal entities as well as state and local regulators to discuss and advance the importance of shale gas as a lower carbon fuel option, promote global energy security and climate security around the world. It would be strategic for the US both in terms of commerce as well as international relations. The shale gas industry has evolved rapidly there, and the natural gas scenario has changed tremendously over the 10 years that shale gas has been explored and produced. Industry estimates say that shale gas could represent approximately 42 per cent of the total gas produced by 2035. Concerns in regards to water contamination are so far unproven, but this may brew large in the Indian context, where both political and activist lobbies will be keen to examine the scope and limitations to their advantage.

In India, basins like Cambay (Gujarat), Assam-Arakan (the Northeast) and Gondwana (Central India) are known to hold shale gas resources. Shale gas auction is slated to be a reality by the end of this year. Last autumn, when the announcement was made, India was supposed to enter into an agreement with the United States on shale gas. Entering into a cooperative relationship with the US presents a win-win situation; however, the government has not taken any firm steps in the direction.

In a Facebook note, Pat Sonti proposes that India should seek US cooperation in the following ways:

  • Resource Assessment: Advanced geological methods and techniques;
  • Exploration & Extraction Technologies: Industry knowledge, experience, lessons learned;
  • Water Treatment of Hydraulic Fracturing (Hydrofracing) Liquids: Water injection, hydraulic fracturing, water recovery, processing, treatment, abatement methods, measures, equipment.
  • Regulatory Framework: Shale gas E&P licensing, safe water, natural gas transmission and related laws and regulation.
  • Midstream Infrastructure Build-Out: Gas gathering, dehydration, gas processing, gas compression and interconnection to main trunkline natural gas transmission system;
  • Natural Gas Pricing: Pricing mechanisms with focus on price build-up from wellhead-to-wholesale/retail consumer burner-tip.

Baby steps

Shale gas has been a game changer in the USA. shale gas projects have also been initiated in different countries. The geo-scientific data acquired over the years for exploration of oil and gas in the Indian basins shows that few Indian basins are prospective from a shale gas point of view. Further studies to identify prospective shale gas areas have been initiated along with resource assessment.

Shale gas development involves drilling of horizontal wells and multi-stage hydro-fracturing, requiring large amounts of water. As per reports, the availability and disposal of water for fracking has been a concern in the USA and many studies in this regard have been initiated.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) and the Department of Hydrocarbons (DGH) are studying various policy aspects with different agencies for initiating shale gas development in India.

SK Srivastava, Director General, Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, Government of India

A futile effort

I have so far not executed any shale gas project, and I don't see shale gas project implementation in India in next 10 years. The hype around shale gas exploitation technology is nothing special. I am surprised to see that technology transfer MoUs are being exchanged between countries. Similar technology is being applied here in India also. We are trying to leap over to shale gas. In India, a lot of conventional oil and gas is yet to be recovered, but the bottlenecks are in our laid back attitude, procedural hassles, policy for tight gas and tight oil is yet to be formalised. It takes years to develop discovered fields because of inefficient operators and tedious approval processes. Fighting with the system is draining us.

B Mohapatra, Country Manager, India Geoglobal Resources

Open it up for bids

Shale gas is definitely a viable option for India. In the USA, extensive research has been carried out and it has been proven that it is commercially viable. Similarly, in India, trial operations have been conducted and the results are encouraging. This exploration of shale gas needs to be taken up in a big way just as we are seeing the development of the CBM gas.

Just as we have the bidding for the NELP on similar lines bidding of shale gas should also be put on bidding as a policy matter.

Amit Gupta, CEO (Pipelines), Essar Projects (India)

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