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The time for it is now
The GAIL project to lay pipeline through the seven western districts of Tamil Nadu connecting the Kochi gas terminal with Bengaluru has been cleared by the Supreme Court. This will be of immense benefit to the development of this region that would benefit over 170 lakh. The state should weigh the enormity of this against the opposition by 5500 farm owners who need to provide only a small portion of their land for laying the pipeline and over which they can still raise a variety of crops.

There is hope that the state government will now derive enormous benefits by use of  gas.  Natural gas is economical, elegant and eco-friendly. For this reason, it is a preferred fuel and feedstock for a variety of industries world over – power, fertilizers, chemicals and petrochemicals… as also for transportation and domestic use.


Prosperity of Gujarat built on gas...


Gujarat provides the best example of the effectiveness of natural gas. The state makes excellent use of the gas produced in the Bombay High oil and gas fields as also on land at the Ankleshwar region in that state.  Supplementing the needs by liberal imports through its ports, the state accounts for more than half the gas consumed in the country. It uses it as feedstock in its large fertilizer plants of KRIBHCO, IFFCO, GNFC and GSFC to produce fertilizers in large volumes and at economical costs. Gas is also used as fuel for power generation, for the production of petrochemicals, chemicals and drugs in large volumes. It is also used as fuel at Essar Steel at Hazira, hundreds of ceramic tile units in Rajkot to power vehicles and as domestic fuel through piped gas supply. In fact, quite a bit of prosperity of Gujarat and Maharashtra that account for a lion’s share of gas consumption in the country owe a lot to the effective use of gas.

Unfortunately, the southern states have not been familiar with the elegance and economics of natural gas. Business leaders have been focused on the engineering industry, particularly the automobile industry. With the wide spread of small and medium industries and with the focus on the services sector, especially post 1991, there have not been attempts to look at large investments that are possible for setting up units based on gas. Correspondingly politicians and policy makers evinced little interest in gas-based development.

In the 1980s, thanks to the powerful politicians from UP like N D Tiwari and Brahm Dutt the state and got a share of the associated gas produced at Bombay High. The Congress-led government sanctioned the 1900 km Hazira-Bijaipur-Jagdishpur (HBJ) pipeline to transport gas from the Bombay High fields to Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and UP at a cost of around Rs 1900 crore. This pipeline fed six large capacity fertiliser plants, three gas turbines and three LPG fractionation plants, which together have involved investments of over Rs 25,000 crore.  Today these fertiliser plants produce around 25,000 tonnes of urea per day, accounting for a significant chunk of total production in the country and contributing richly to the farm prosperity of these northern states. Significantly, Rajasthan and MP have emerged large producers of food grains recording a 22 per cent growth in agriculture last year.

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