New gas find in West Bengal

Ashis Biswas, Kolkata
Published : 23:53, Dec 03, 2019 | Updated : 23:55, Dec 03, 2019

Oil and Natural Gas Corp`s (ONGC) wells are pictured in an oil field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, March 16, 2016. REUTERS/File PhotoMajor Indian public sector firm Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is finally about to set up a new plant at Ashokenagar, North 24 Parganas, in West Bengal, to begin commercial extraction of natural gas. ONGC authorities have requested West Bengal Government to arrange for the takeover of between 10/12 acres of land in the area as early as possible.
State officials who had earlier helped the ONGC acquire around 3 acres of land on lease in the Ashokenagar/Kalyangarh area, not far from Kolkata’s northern suburbs, said they had already earmarked such a plot for the ONGC. Local Municipality Chairman Mr Prabodh Sarkar issued a NOC (no objection certificate) to enable the ONGC authorities to begin work.
State Government circles are highly pleased with the ONGC’s discovery. ONGC authorities announced five fresh successful strikes all over the country, including the one at Ashokenagar. Officials feel that once the commercial exploitation of gas begins, there would occur a much -needed sea change in the state’s stagnant economy.
Bengal received Rs 400,000 as cess as the ONGC carried out its explorations by digging wells in the region about 18 months ago. It was also earning a larger sum for the 30 year lease it had granted to the ONGC while making the initial land allotment.
District Land and Land Reforms officers said they had sent details about the plot that could be handed over for the expanded project for approval of the higher authorities. ONGC sources had informed them that they struck gas at one of the wells they had drilled, where a daily flow of 100,000 cum(cubic metres) had been confirmed. A small quantity of oil, too had been found in one of the wells.
Mr Sarkar said that ONGC officials had told him that there were big gas reserves underground in north 24 Parganas. The field at Ashokenagar was apparently big enough to meet major energy requirements for decades.
Along with the main plant, there would be a network of pipelines to ensure steady domestic as well as out- of- state supplies. This could well lead to a major, long awaited economic breakthrough for the Eastern region as a whole, said officials, as the generation of many jobs seemed assured.
Some experts, however, advised caution about the commercial potential of the ONGC’s discovery. One Kolkata-based expert said that although drilling and exploration had been carried out in different parts of Bengal off and on, there was no easy availability of gas or oil, despite some promising signs. Major sums had been spent on exploration in Bengal.
However, this was the first officially confirmed positive announcement from a major concern like the ONGC, which was very encouraging. He expected that preliminary work at Ashokenagar would receive priority as gas exploration resulted in less pollution than burning oil or coal for the industry. Also, the Government of India was committed to reducing India’s dependence on imported oil to 50% of the present elvel by 2030. At present about 80% of the country’s increasing fuel requirements was imported, a major strain on the economy of a developing country.
Such new finds of energy resources could not have come at a better time for India. In 2017-18, India’s import of fuel cost the country $87.7 billion, up to July 2019, the trade deficit for India amounted to $18 billion already---- an all time negative record . There were no immediate signs of any improvement in the situation either.
These new finds have come at a time when the Moody’s have expressed doubts about India’s chances of reducing its increasing fiscal deficit, which would certainly exceed the target of 3.3% of its GDP in the current fiscal. Small time reformatory measures, a falling trend in GST collections and the increasing burden of maintaining subsidies by maintaining minimum support prices for certain crops etc, added to the strains of the ailing economy.
The centre would also build a gas bottling plant in Tripura, in Northeast India.