West Bengal looks with hope to future CBM potential

Vol 10, PW 12 (05 Oct 06) People & Policy

West Bengal is pinning its hopes on the imminent commercial production of Coal Bed Methane (CBM) to revive its decaying industrial infrastructure, the oldest in India.

Factories in West Bengal receive no natural gas, but the Communist-run state has abundant coal reserves. Under British rule, West Bengal was Indias first and most industrialised region, a claim it held till the early 1960s when cleaner and more energy-efficient fuels began to replace coal and the state lost its industrial primacy to other regions.

But with the emergence of CBM as a new energy resource, West Bengal is fervently hoping for an industrial revival. For the past 40 years West Bengal has been ruled by a Communist-Socialist coalition, which is now hesitantly embracing market-oriented industrial policies.

Alongside chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, state industries minister Nirupam Sen is the public face of this new market-friendly government. In an interview with PETROWATCH in Kolkata, Sen outlined the hopes his government places on CBM to reactivate industry in West Bengal.

Once Great Eastern begins commercial production of CBM at Asansol we see a lot of potential, said Sen. CBM can replace diesel in the transport sector, particularly in the Durgapur and Asansol industrial belt.

Sen believes that once large scale CBM production begins, gas-based power and fertiliser factories can be set up in this region. He adds: Steel factories like Indian Iron and Steel, Durgapur Steel are also showing interest in receiving CBM.

Sen said he had recently, held a meeting of industrial and commercial units in the Asansol and Durgapur industrial belt to capitalise on the CBM opportunity. If there is enough CBM left over after supplying industries, said Sen, the state could think of setting up city gas distribution projects initially in the Asansol-Durgapur region and then in other parts of the state.

LNG Summit