After two months of delays, India is expected to release a much-anticipated national policy on shale gas policy any day now. It’s about time; as the Diplomat reports, there is a lot to be gained from the extraction of the resource:
As the third-largest energy consumer in the world, according to a 2011 Enerdata report, and a natural gas net importer since 2004, it is easy to see why the South Asian nation is placing high hopes on its own “shale gas revolution.” […][F]or a country like India, where coal still dominates the energy mix—coal imports increased to a record 135 million tons in the last fiscal year—shale gas can represent a promising alternative, both in terms of costs and environmental impact thanks to its potentially lower emissions.
The most recent Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates of India’s shale resources, released last week, put the country’s technically recoverable shale gas reserves at 96 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). India is by no means a global leader in shale gas potential; China has a staggering 1,115 Tcf of shale gas, and the US has 665 Tcf of its own. But India’s reserves are still significant.Unfortunately, many of India’s shale basins are “extensively faulted,” according to the EIA. Compared to the stratigraphy in the US, where relatively neat layers of rock make drilling horizontal wells (a key step in extracting shale oil and gas) quite easy, India’s stratigraphy is considerably more varied, which will make it more difficult to predict where to drill. Furthermore, if shale is to become a significant part of India’s energy mix, the country’s energy infrastructure, especially its pipelines, will need to be built out. That could be a stumbling block for a country where poor infrastructure led to a raft of blackouts affecting hundreds of millions of people last summer.Fortunately The Diplomat notes that India is already making progress on this front:
[I]n the search for such know-how Indian companies like Reliance Industries, Gail, and Bahrat Petro Resources have begun acquiring stakes in shale gas assets in the U.S. and Australia.
India probably won’t be able to replicate US shale success at any point in the forseeable future, but even a pale imitation would be significant for the country, as well as the planet. India currently relies on dirty-burning coal for much of its energy; even a minor shift towards shale gas could help reduce emissions and clean the air.[Rig image courtesy of Shutterstock]