India Slow Off The Mark In Harnessing Shale Gas Potential

By Adam Currie — Exclusive to Gas Investing News

India Slow Off the Mark in Harnessing Shale Gas Potential

With crude prices surging, more and more countries are turning their attention to natural gas. With the commodity's price currently sitting at a ten-year low, and a seemingly endless abundance of supply, it is unsurprising that developing nations are beginning to focus more attention on opportunities lying beneath their very feet.

The rapid growth of US shale gas exploration and production has been widely discussed in India, with talk now centering on whether India could taste similar success domestically. As the Indian economy has grown, the country's need for energy has taken center stage, with shale gas now challenging as a potential source for the country moving forward.

Globally-recognized energy economist Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates has referred to shale gas development as “the biggest energy innovation of the decade.”

In terms of its chemical makeup, shale gas is typically a dry gas primarily composed of methane. With advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, supply of this commodity has surged over recent years, with many feeling that India should be taking advantage of such advancements and producing its own shale gas supply.

In India, six basins have been identified for exploration, including the Cambay, Assam-Arakan, Gondwana, KG onshore, Cauvery onshore, and Indo Gangetic. However neither the government nor the corporate sector has carried out any notable exploration or estimation of reserves.

The Asian giant's advances were dealt a blow recently when Indian petroleum minister S. Jaipal Reddy announced that India would once again delay its first ever shale gas exploration round until December 2013. He attributed the delay to regulatory regimes being put in place, including a resource assessment, policy framework for the upcoming rounds, and delays in official identification of potential acreage to be auctioned.

Speaking at the India Unconventional Gas Forum in Mumbai, C.M. Jain, Deputy General Manager - Head Unconventional Resources for Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC), outlined that the Indian shale gas sector faces  multiple challenges in the form of manpower, technology, infrastructure, regulatory framework, as well as the availability of water resources.

The sweet spot

The nature of these challenges is unique to India, and the solutions will need to be India-specific, according to Jain. When highlighting the differences between the US and India in relation to shale gas, he noted that one significant hurdle faced is the current lack of relevant data.