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№ 6 (June 2009)

India’s energy industry – past, present, future

   In Jawaharlal Nehru’s opinion, after gaining independence in 1947, the key task for India was securing adequate supply of oil and gas to the country. Nehru and his associates understood that they will be unable to fight underdevelopment and poverty without support from other states.

By N. P. Zapivalov

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   In these difficult days, USSR was the first to help Indian people regardless of difficult domestic situation – the country was recovering after the WWII.
Following the request of Indian Government, in December 1955 USSR sent to India a team of oil industry experts (experienced geologist and oil professional N. A. Kalinin, head of the group, geophysicist N. P. Chunarev, drilling expert E. I. Tagiev). The group spent five months researching geoscience materials in Indian Geologic Survey in Calcutta, analysing sedimentary basins of the country and drafting the five-year (1956-1960) exploration plan for hydrocarbons.
Western experts, who were invited to check the plan, gave unanimously negative feedback – but India decided to go its own way, fully confident in Russian experts. In August 1996 the country set up Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC). Prior to initiating cooperation with Soviet Union, India was consuming 5.5 mln tpa of oil, which was imported. Only 10 years later (by 1 December 1966), the country had 13 oil and gas fields, having developed 143 mln. t. of industrial oil reserves; oil production reached 4 mln. tpa. Over 750 best Soviet oil experts worked in India. By 1982 ONGC employed 25,000 personnel, including 1,500 degree professionals, many of whom studied in the USSR. Was discovered over 60 oil&gas fields with 515 mln t oil reserves (including 250 mln t offshore) and 400 bcm gas reserves; 24 fields were placed in operation. India has become an oil-producing nation.

Present-day oil segment in India
India spreads over some 3.2 mln. km2, which is comparable to the territory of Western Siberia. Out of 26 sedimentary basins, only six have confirmed reserves of oil&gas. Tellingly, 56% of all prospective zones are offshore, and large part of these (1.35 mln. km2) – deep sea. Over 20 state and private (and usually vertically integrated) oil&gas companies compete in India; over 100 servicing companies are engaged in exploration and production, the largest being Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Reliance (Reliance Industries Ltd.), Gail (Gail India Ltd.) and Oil India (Oil India Ltd).

Flagship of India’s energy segment
India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which celebrated 50 years anniversary in 2006, holds leading position in exploration and production; the organisation also leads the way in exploring alternative energy sources. ONGC discovered 367 oil and gas fields (233 overland and 134 offshore). Total production of the company reached 790 mln t of oil and 460 bcm of natural gas. The company produces 80% of India’s crude. ONGC operates over 140 land-based drilling and maintenance units, 30 drilling rigs, 81 offshore platforms and 59 auxiliary ships. The company also operates over 22,000km of offshore pipelines (including 4,500 km of undersea pipelines).
India’s “intervention” in other countries deserves special attention. This task is performed by a special ONGC unit Videsh Company (OVL), which runs 38 projects in 18 countries.
In Russia the Indian company is engaged in one of Sakhalin-based projects; also, in 2008 OVL acquired 15 fields and prospective zones off UK-based Imperial Energy for some $2.5 bn, virtually buying out the company which owned the fields. This essentially means that ONGC has entered Western Siberia for oil&gas production projects.
Such wide “expansion” is due to India’s current inability to secure internally the oil volumes the country needs, which means that the state does everything possible to provide alternative energy feeds. By 2030 India’s energy consumption would grow 3.6 times. This figure is the highest in the world – even in China, energy consumption is predicted to grow “only” by 3.2 times.

Prospects for developing alternative and renewable energy feeds
India does everything to gain additional energy sources. Petrotech-2009 conference and exhibition featured the following directions:
1.Coal-bed methane. Several pivotal units and facilities already operate in Central and Eastern India. The production is planned at 1.24 bcm of gas by 2012. Some 1,000 wells will be drilled.
2.In-situ coal gasification. Gujarat state (Vastan) has been chosen as a location for pivotal project; 18 wells drilled so far. the project is supposed to yield some 3 bcm of gas.
3.Wind-power engineering. India’s wind-power complex has total power capacity of 8,800 MW (March 2008). Gujarat state has wind-power stations producing over 50 MW.
4.Gas hydrates. This is essentially hydrocarbon potential of water basins, which is put under alternative energy sources due to insufficiently researched formation factors for methane-hydrate clusters, as well as due to the lack of methods and technologies for developing such deposits. Many companies look into this option due to its immensely high hydrocarbons production potential. Science ship Joides Resolution continuously researches this challenge in Indian offshore waters. The program already discovered thick gas hydrate clusters (over 130 metres) in Krishna Godavari basin (the Bay of Bengal) and the deepest layer of such clusters (over 600 metres below the sea level), in the region of Andaman Islands.
    The current estimate of India’s offshore gas resources stands at some 200 trillion m3, including gas-hydrate deposits. Particular hopes are placed at Andaman Islands, where gas hydrate reserves are estimated at 6 trillion m3. Indian Government has developed the National gas-hydrate program which targets exploration and development of gas-hydrate reserves of the country.
5.Hydrogen energy sector. This segment is well-presented in India. The program envisages scientific experiments and installation of the factories for hydrogen fuel cells production. Particular attention is paid to switching transport means to hydrogen fuel as 40% of hydrocarbon products are consumed by vehicles.
6. Solar power. Solar panels are installed on may houses, particularly in mountainous regions.
7. Tidal power and submarine currents. The project is implemented in the Gulf of Kutch (south-western India).
8. Attention is also being paid to utilisation of biomass and waste for production of at least some energy.
On 20 August 2007, India’s Prime Minister opened ONGC R&D Energy Centre, which operates in the following fields:
– development of thermochemical reactor for hydrogen production;
– development of geo-bio reactors;
– project on methanol biosynthesis;
– participation in developing membrane fuel cells;
– solar power generation;
– nuclear power.

India also uses traditional renewable fuel types. In rural regions, dried manure and wood are used as fuel for household requirements. Experts say, this type of fuel provides over 20% of all energy consumed in India. In the Himalayas, yak manure burning produces wondrously pleasant smoke which smells similar to incense. Manure-based biogas production has been growing lately.
Any growth of energy potential means survival, independence and prosperity of a given nation (society) within the chaotic globalisation system. Present-day India uses every opportunity it has to get additional energy sources. The country focuses on renewable and alternate energy sources, as it plans to boost energy consumption more than thrice by 2030 – to 400,000 MW.

INCUT

And what about Russia?
Following citations from the recent article “Global prospective for developing alternative energy services” by N. M. Baikov (RAN Institute of Global Economy and International Relations) come to mind when talking about alternative and renewable energy sources in Russia. For general understanding of the situation, two final provisions would suffice:
1.“Regardless of the huge reserves of renewable energy in Russia (some 4,6 bn TOE per year, five times higher than annual consumption of primary energy resources), there is no renewable energy development program and no relevant legal framework. Presently there are no incentives for developing this direction. There is no coordinating centre for unification of separate projects. The schedule for switchover to renewable energy sources is practically absent in the concepts of the Russian Academy of Sciences and leading R&D centres presented in the “Environmentally Friendly Energy Production” programme (1993).”
2.“Presently Russia operates a single geo-power station (11 MW, Pauzhetskaya in Kamchatka), single tidal power station (450 kW, Kislogubskaya), 1,500 wind-power units (0.1-16kW capacity), 50 micro hydropower units (1.5-10kW capacity), 300 mini hydropower units, solar photovoltaic power stations (100 kW total capacity), 100,000 m2 of solar panels, 3,000 thermal pumps (8-10 MW capacity) – this is about 30 times less units than in the US. Failing adequate measures this could have negative impact on the country’s economic development”. (There is information that two more geothermal power stations operate at Kamchatka (Mutnovskoe field), 12 MW and 50 MW capacity – author’s note).
    In Russia, some 20 mln houses are still heated with firewood. With this in mind, it pays to note that thermo-heat can be used practically anywhere in Russia. Deep-earth geothermics and hydrothermal resources in particular could become an important part of energy balance for many regions of the country, including even Khanty&Mansy autonomy.
The RAN Geology institute has already developed the map “Russia’s prospective hydrothermal provinces”. Experts of geothermal science insist that thermal hot underground waters can compete with coal and crude oil. Geothermal energy resources are divided into hydrothermal and petrothermal. The most conservative estimates place Russian probable reserves of thermal water (up to 3 km deep) with temperature 40-250 °С at 21-22 mln m3/day, which corresponds to 45-280 mln TOE annually. Probable reserves of gas-vapour mixture (150-250 °С) at Kamchatka and the Kuriles reach 500,000 m3/day. Petrothermal heat energy forms 99% of total underground thermal resources of Russia. At the depth of 4-6 km, almost all deposits have temperature of 100-150 °С. The total reserves of thermal energy stocked in the top 10-km deep layer of earth equal the thermal potential of burning 34,1*109 bn TOE, which is several thousand times over the calorific efficiency of any known fossil fuel reserves. (The data on earth geothermics are based on the research of the famous Russian scientist, DSc geologic-mineralogical science A. D. Duchkov).
There are instances of using geothermal waters in Novosibirsk and Omsk regions. Okoneshnikov hydrothermal zone engulfs Tatarsky, Ust-Tarsky, Bagansky and even Severny and Kyshtovsky districts of Novosibirsk region, as well as south-eastern districts of Omsk region. The water layer is located at the depth of 1,000-1,200 metres (Pokurskoe suite, Cretaceous), with formation temperature 60-65 °С and surface temperature 45 °С. Some buildings are heated using this water. There are also instances of using thermal pumps (thermal power converters) developed in Akademgorodok borough of Novosibirsk.
Ostensibly, the time is nigh to decide which program should be used to unlock the own heat resources for warming up the coldest country – Russia – for present and future generations. Yet, this requires solid scientific base and geological investigations – otherwise, as D. I. Mendeleev said, “Even crude oil does not help if there is no light of scientific thought”.
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