Shale gas plans roar ahead despite French ban

Vol 15, PW 2 (28 Jul 11) Exploration & Production

France has banned shale gas exploration and in Britain serious questions are being raised following a minor earthquake triggered by hydraulic fracturing, or ‘Frakking’, a controversial new technique used to extract gas from shale deposits.

Yet in India, no one is paying any notice. Helped by Schlumberger, ONGC continues to build its shale gas knowledge-base ahead of an eagerly awaited shale gas licensing round.

By the month-end, ONGC will complete its fourth and final ‘pilot’ shale exploration well: NK-2, spud on July 5 at the 340-sq km North Karanpura CBM block or NK-CBM-2001/1 in Jharkhand. ONGC is drilling NK-2 to 1000-metres TD to ‘Permian era formations’ using a 1000-hp rig from Essar.

ONGC says drilling at NK-2 has been ‘incident free.’ By ‘incident free’ one assumes ONGC means no disruption from Maoist insurgents; not earthquakes or problems disposing millions of gallons of toxic water into the countryside.

Local politicians and Maoists routinely disrupted work at ONGC’s first and second pilot shale gas wells. After completing NK-2, ONGC will release Essar’s rig and begin evaluating results.

“This could take six months,” we hear. ONGC admits it is “still learning” about shale gas, but says its findings will give it an ‘edge’ in any future licensing round.

Of three pilot wells completed so far, ONGC has tested only the first: RNSG-1. This was spud last September and drilled to 2000-metres TD at the 350-sq km Raniganj North CBM block in West Bengal.

Two other pilot wells at Raniganj North and North Karanpura have yielded extensive core samples that will help ONGC evaluate shale gas content. ONGC refuses to disclose details of the RNSG-1 results, analysed by Schlumberger at Terra Tek in Salt Lake City, as it wants to preserve ‘first-mover advantage’ for the day India announces its first shale round.

ONGC must be praying for that day to come soon.

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