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ONGC at KG Basin

At the Economic Editors’ Conference held in November 2009, the then Minister of Oil and Natural Gas, Murli Deora, expressed hope on the Krishna Godavari Basin off the Andhra coast emerging as a large producer of natural gas. At that time, Reliance production touched a level of 60-80 million cubic metres per day. Deora said that ONGC, Cairn Energy and GSPC which were also exploring gas would also emerge as large producers of gas from the KG Basin. There was an indication of daily production at 200 msmcmd!

Disappointingly, this hope did not materialise: the low price for gas pegged by the Supreme Court at $4.20 per 1000 MMBTU rendered exploratory efforts uneconomic; even production from Reliance gas fields dropped to less than 25 msmcmd.

In this background, recent news on ONGC striking gas rich is welcome. In parallel, there is another welcome development of the government re-negotiating the long term agreement with Qatar on gas contracts. The twin deals, of the long term supply at $6- $7 per 1000 MMBTU and Qatar agreeing to forego the claim on arrears of Rs 12,000 crore are extremely positive developments.

This should accelerate efforts at setting up gas terminals at Ennore and Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu and also at nearby Krishnapatnam. IE has been stressing the elegance and economics of switching to gas from liquid petroleum products by a vast range of industries. Around $6 per 1000 MMBTU will make production of fertilisers and electricity from gas attractive.

Tamil Nadu should learn from the extensive use of gas by industries in Gujarat and Maharashtra to great advantage. It should work on expediting the creation of a gas grid for Tamil Nadu and focus on domestic supply by piped gas, as done in Delhi, Mumbai and several cities in Gujarat.


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