India to tap frozen methane from under sea

New Delhi, August 29:

India is set to drill two deep sea wells to tap sources of methane gas, a rich source of energy that holds great promise for the future. Under a National Gas Hydrates Programme (NGHP), several Indian institutions are studying ways to tap these rich sources of gas found in the form of hydrates, or methane in frozen form, petroleum ministry officials said.

“We are planning to drill two wells exclusively for the coring gas hydrates for sample study,” an official said, “The biggest challenge with gas hydrates is how to free the frozen gas, given the complex ecosystems associated with hydrates.” The precise locations of the wells on the east and west coast are still being finalised and the timing of drilling will depend on the availability of rigs, the official added.

A cubic metre of gas hydrate is estimated to have some 164 standard cubic meters of methane gas. India is estimated to have gas hydrate reserves of around 1,894 trillion cubic metres, considerably more than conventional gas reserves. Seismic surveys and exploration activities in the Krishna-Godavari Basin, the Andaman offshore and Goa have revealed gas hydrate reserves, experts said. In fact, the presence of gas hydrates in some blocks of Reliance Industries and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in the Krishna-Godavari Basin are proving a hindrance, since care has to be taken not to disturb them, sources said. Among the few countries working in this area of gas hydrates, India is also seeking membership to the International Ocean Development Programme that has experts from countries including Japan, the US and China.

“We are in touch with the international body to see how the Indian gas hydrate programme can become part of it,” said V K Sibal, head of the directorate general of hydrocarbons, the exploration regulatory body. The directorate will provide the $1-million fee required for India to become an associate member. The NGHP is tying up with the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur, West Bengal, for a breakthrough in technology even as 15 locations have been identified in the Krishna-Godavari basin where drilling for hydrates will be done in phases. “These locations have been identified in collaboration with the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa,” an official said.

Experts said no country so far has been able to unravel the best way to tap gas hydrates despite decades of efforts.