ONGC shale gas plans hit by Tamil Nadu protests

Vol 19, PW 24 (11 Aug 16) Exploration & Production

ONGC's plan to drill 35 exploration wells under its nascent shale research programme in Tamil Nadu has been thrown into disarray by angry farmers.

In a scenario reminiscent of the problems GAIL faced in the state with its Kochi R-LNG evacuation pipeline ONGC has been forced to abandon its shale exploration campaign in Nagapattinam district. Local villagers fear the drilling campaign, involving fracking, will contaminate underground water and trigger earthquakes.

ONGC was forced to promise an angry mob at a local village administration office on July 28 it would halt all work in the district immediately and remove all equipment and machinery from the exploration site. "For the time being we have no option but to listen to these farmers," says an ONGC source.

"But this doesn't mean we've given up." Besides Nagapattinam, ONGC has identified four other districts in Tamil Nadu for the oil ministry-backed shale exploration programme: Ariyalur, a major sugarcane growing area; Cuddalore, a fishing town famous as the site of a major battle between the French and British in 1758, Tanjaur, a major tourist destination and agricultural centre known as the 'rice bowl of Tamil Nadu' and Thiruvarur, a predominantly agricultural area. ONGC wants to drill at least one exploration well by March 2017 at each of the following PML areas: L-I, Kuthalam, Kali and Greater Kali, Bhuvanagiri and Neyveli.

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