India begins gas hydrate exploration in December

Vol 8, PW 6 (16 Jun 04) People & Policy

Gas hydrate exploration is no longer the preserve of rich industrialised nations like Japan or the US.

In December this year India will embark on a gas hydrate resource mapping exercise for two months by drilling for cores at promising locations in the deep waters off Andhra Pradesh, Goa and the Andaman Islands. Expect the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons to solicit Expressions of Interest for a deepwater drillship that can drill in depths of between 1,000-2,000 metres very shortly.

Drilling at ten locations is planned. Five in the Krishna Godavari basin, including two on Reliances prolific NELP-I exploration block KG-DWN-98/3.

We have seen gas hydrates in the well logs from this block, an oil ministry source tells us. Two locations are offshore Andaman and two or three offshore Goa and Kerala.

Three holes will be drilled at each location, each to a depth of about 500 metres. One hole will be cored at each location and a total 3,000 metres of cores removed.

These will be transported for storage in nitrogen containers at low temperature and high pressure to ONGCs Institute of Oil and Gas Production Technology where they will be analysed. Pre-drill studies such as shallow, high-resolution seismic surveys and current and wind surveys will precede core drilling.

At first the oil ministry wanted to hire the drillship Joides Resolution now working with the International Ocean Development Programme but this was aborted, as Joides is unavailable before 2006. Another proposal to issue a limited tender to Fugro for its drillship Ocean Explorer now drilling for gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico and to Schlumberger, who showed interest in our gas hydrates exploration programme was also dropped over inviting Expressions of Interest for a deepwater drillship.

A budget of Rs100cr ($20m) has been set aside for the gas hydrate coring and resource mapping exercise of which $12m is likely to be the hire charge for the drillship. ONGCs Institute of Oil and Gas Production Technology is preparing a gas hydrate pilot production model.

The first pilot is expected to be ready for production in 2006-07.