Another wildlife headache for GAIL drilling plans

Vol 16, PW 17 (21 Mar 13) Exploration & Production

GAIL has abandoned three prospective drilling locations because they lie in wildlife sanctuaries.

Ten possible locations were identified for three Phase-I committed exploration wells at its 946-sq km NELP-VII Cauvery onland block CY-ONN-2005/1 in Tamil Nadu. These were based on 500-sq km 3D and 75-sq km high resolution 3D shot by Russian seismic contractor Saratoneftgeofizyka and interpreted by Egypt-based Earth Resources, which reported back this month (March).

Of these 10 locations, GAIL chose three. "The most prospective three locations fall inside the (45-sq km) Udayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary and the (21.47-sq km) Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary," says GAIL.

"Our partners Bengal Energy and GSPC also identified these locations." Geologists from GAIL, GSPC, Bengal Energy and Earth Resources met on March 14 and 15 to finalise three 'second ranked' locations.

“We have no choice but to look at alternatives,” adds our source. “A Supreme Court ruling states we cannot drill exploration wells within a 10-km radius of bird or wildlife sanctuaries.

But this ruling came after we won the block." GAIL has approached the environment ministry for a solution but was told to get permission from local officials at the wildlife sanctuaries.

"We face the same problem at our KG block," he adds, "and at our Golaghat block (in Assam). Both have sanctuaries and we have been waiting for permission to drill exploration wells for over two years.

" GAIL feels it is better to drill at the second-ranked locations at CY-ONN-2005/1 rather than waste another two years waiting for environmental clearances.

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