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Baruna asked: What are the prospects of methane hydrates in India?

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  • Shebonti Ray Dadwal replies: In 2006, India’s National Gas Hydrate Programme (NGHP) established the presence of significant quantities of hydrates (also known as methane hydrates) in the Krishna Godavari, Mahanadi and Andaman basins.

    In 2014, following a collaborative exploration with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Japan Drilling Company (JDC) and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), the Indian petroleum ministry issued a statement that the expected reserves of gas hydrates in India is 1894 trillion cubic meters (1 cubic metre of hydrates can contain 160 cu.m. of gas). A second expedition in 2015 confirmed the presence of large, highly saturated gas hydrate accumulations throughout the Krishna-Godavari (K-G) Basin with a potential which could be significantly more than the largest known natural gas field (KG D6).

    However, there are a few challenges. Despite the huge reserves, future production volumes are speculative as methane production from hydrates has not been proven beyond small-scale experiments and some experts believe that only a fraction of hydrate reserves will be commercially exploitable as most of the reserves are located in areas with extreme water pressure or low temperatures making the extraction process difficult. Furthermore, the extraction can destabilise the sea-bed leading to oceanic landslides and subsequent leakage of harmful methane gas (around 30 times more than CO2) in the atmosphere. Also, the lack of technical expertise for safe extraction is a hindrance, although in May 2017 teams from Japan and China extracted gas hydrates successfully from the sea-bed in the Pacific and the South China Sea, respectively.

    Nonetheless, these are still in early stages of R&D and if they prove viable, it can provide a big push for India’s goal of energy self-sufficiency. Apart from the US and Japan, India has also entered into an agreement with Canada to develop hydrate extraction technology. Japan, which hopes to start commercial production from its offshore hydrates by 2027, is actively collaborating with the US and India since 2018.

    Posted on April 24, 2019