No gas for Silchar as Bhubandar field lies idle

Vol 7, PW 10 (30 Jul 03) Midstream & Downstream

FOR ABOUT six years now, Silchar town in Assam has been waiting patiently for gas supplies even though it lies tantalisingly close to two ONGC gasfields.

Just 10-km southwest of Silchar is the producing Banaskandi gasfield and 30-km south east is the discovered but idle Bhubandar gasfield. Given the ridiculously short distance from both gasfields, Silchar's 145,000 residents ought to have easy access to gas.

But sadly no, given the infuriatingly slow pace at which things move in India. Blame indecision on whether ONGC or the Assam Gas Company, owned by the Assam state government, should lay the gas pipeline.

Several petitions on behalf of Silchar to the oil ministry and to ONGC have yielded nothing. The latest one, sent in April, is from Assam legislator Bimolangshu Roy to oil minister Ram Naik.

Early this month, Naik replies to Roy: "I have examined the matter by calling comments from ONGC, who have informed me that currently gas is being supplied in Cachar district of Assam (where Silchar is located) from Banaskandi and Adamtila fields." Adds Naik: "Since gas production from these fields is not adequate to cater to the needs of the town (Silchar) ONGC plans to supply 15,000 cm/d gas from the single gas well of Bhubandar field in Cachar area where gas reserves have been established." Naik carefully avoids any commitment or time schedule to supply gas to Silchar. Logically, Banaskandi, which lies ring-fenced within Tullow Oil's block AA-ONJ-2 and is producing 50,000 cm/d, should be the main gas source for Silchar.

Total production from Banaskandi and Adamtila gasfields at 140,000 cm/d is not enough to supply other parts of Cachar district where demand is 169,100 cm/d. Gas production from Banaskandi can be raised by working over existing wells and drilling new wells, reveals ONGC, but this must await restoration of the mining lease.

The next choice for gas to Silchar is from the Bhubandar gasfield but the two gas wells at Bhubandar are capped and have not produced since the field was discovered by ONGC in 1992. A 'long-term profile' of gas production prepared by ONGC's Institute of Oil and Gas Production Technology indicates potential production of between 44,000 cm/d and 50,000 cm/d from Bhubandar for 10 years.

ONGC reckons it can make money from the field irrespective of who lays the pipeline to Silchar. "The decision has to be taken at the local level," reveals a source.

"Once a decision is taken the wells can flow the next day."

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