GAIL drilling plans in Tamil Nadu hit brick wall

Vol 17, PW 22 (19 Jun 14) Exploration & Production

Tamil Nadu is delaying GAIL's drilling plans because the company has offended former film star and state chief minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, believe oil ministry officials.

GAIL wrote to the ministry last month (June) asking for help in securing a three-year extension to the PEL at its Cauvery basin onland block CY-ONN-2005/1 which ended on March 2, 2014. GAIL has been chasing Tamil Nadu officials over the extension since last year, citing plans to drill three wells.

“Tamil Nadu isn't giving a clear answer," adds a GAIL source. “It’s neither refusing nor granting the extension.

We’re hoping the government can help us.” A ministry source speculates the Jayalalithaa government might be offended because GAIL challenged it in the Madras High Court last year over a Tamil Nadu order blocking the laying of a 879-km R-LNG evacuation pipeline from Kochi to Bangalore.

“We're looking into the matter,” he says. Local villagers are also protesting against GAIL's exploration campaign, saying the wells will pollute agricultural land.

GAIL has finalised three drilling locations in Thanjavur district: Naduvikottai, Bhavajikottai (Pattukottai Taluk) and Kannugudi (Orathanadu Taluk). GAIL plans to drill two wells to 1700 metres TD and a third to 2400 metres.

GAIL wanted to begin drilling in April 2014 and has awarded contracts for cementing, casing and tubing. John Energy won the 1000-hp rig contract.