ONGC launches Indian shale-gas exploration
The drilling of India's first shale-gas well could trigger a scramble for unconventional-gas acreage in the country
India's ONGC has drilled its first shale-gas well, a move that could trigger a scramble for unconventional-gas acreage in the country. The state-owned oil and gas company said in late September that it had begun drill-ing a well in West Bengal, but did not reveal the prospectivity of the shale-gas play. The well, RNSG-1, is in Ichapur village, near Durgapur, in the Burdwan district of the state. ONGC said the well would target a depth of 2,000 metres and seek to tap a shale play 700 metres thick. The company will drill another three wells in the nearby Damodar Valley, also in Burdwan.
ONGC also notified India's Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) about two other conventional hydro-carbon discoveries on the east and west coasts. India wants unconventional-gas developments to help plug a domestic supply shortfall of around 13bn cubic metres a year (cm/y).
So far, most of the attention has focused on access to foreign shale-gas reserves. India's Reliance Industries, the country's largest private-sector oil firm, has spent the past year hunting for unconventional-gas assets in the US, the origin of the shale-gas revolution. It has bought access to the Eagle Ford and Marcellus shales, two of the country's most prolific plays. Oil India, another state-run firm, and Gail India, the state-owned gas-transmission company, have also said they will seek to buy access to the US shale business.
India's domestic conventional gas reserves are estimated at just 1.09 trillion cm of gas, or 0.6% of global reserves, according to Cedigaz. But recent upstream success has brought a burst in output – between 2008 and 2009, production rose by almost 30% to more than 39bn cm. Demand, however, is rising almost as fast – it grew by a quarter in 2008 to reach almost 52bn cm last year.
The volume of India's unconventional-gas reserves is unknown, but a delegation of officials recently visited the US to discuss sharing technology in the Indian upstream sector. The DGH reckons several Indian basins hold shale gas resources, with most attention being paid to Cambay, in Gujarat, Assam-Arakan, in the north-east of the country, and Gondwana, in the centre.