West Bengal wants Tripura gas but Naik says 'no'

Vol 6, PW 24 (12 Feb 03) Midstream & Downstream

SAYING NO COMES easy to oil minister Ram Naik.

Especially to a request from the chief minister of an opposition ruled state. On 14th January, Naik wrote to West Bengal's Communist party chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee, turning down his demand for surplus gas from the north-eastern state of Tripura.

"I have had the matter looked into," replied Naik, "and would like to inform you that keeping in view the existing surplus available gas in Tripura after taking into account supplies to the existing customers and the potential customers, laying of natural gas pipeline for balance surplus gas from Tripura to West Bengal through Bangladesh would not be economically viable." Bhattacharjee backs up his case with numbers. He claims - not unreasonably - that Tripura has huge untapped gas reserves of 47bn cubic metres of which 28bn cm is recoverable.

He adds that of the 4m cm/d produced daily from Tripura only 1.2m cm/d is used. Bhattacharjee stresses that West Bengal needs the balance 2.8m cm/d and is ready to pay for it.

He admits the difficulty is that Tripura and West Bengal are separated by Bangladesh but offers three possible solutions: Lay a pipeline from Tripura to West Bengal via Bangladesh Lay an offshore pipeline from Tripura to West Bengal with only 10-km passing through Bangladesh Or avoid Bangladesh totally by going through various neighbouring states to enter West Bengal Clearly, the first option is the shortest and cheapest. Yet Naik is unimpressed and gently reminds Bhattacharjee that his figures are wrong.

"As against the projected availability from Tripura of 4m cm/d, the present supply is around 1.2m cm/d. Whereas gas allocation for more than 5m cm/d has already been made."

LNG Summit