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Shale Gas: India Goes China & US Way

Aditya Kaul, Daily News & Analysis

India wants to emulate the methodology China has adopted in developing a pool of scholars with academic and technical expertise in shale gas exploitation by engaging with US industry and academia.

“Our consul general in Houston has brought to our attention some very ingenious efforts by the Chinese oil and gas industry to learn from the US oil and gas industry and the extensive linkages with the US academia that it nurtures,” said Sudhir Vyas, secretary, economic relations in the external affairs ministry, incommunication to his counterpart in the petroleum and natural gas ministry.

Over the last 10 years, the US has emerged as the world’s leading producer of shale gas. Shale gas is extracted from underground shale rock formations using a complex technique known as hydraulic fracturing. From 1 % of total natural gas production in the US in 2000, shale gas currently contributes 20 %, turning the world’s attention to this energy source which could play a critical role in meeting world’s future energy requirements.

China, with its bourgeoning energy needs, has already stepped onto the shale gas bandwagon, and begun exploitation of domestic shale gas reserves – which are believed to be the largest in the world — and has started acquiring foreign shale gas assets.

According to Vyas, China has now adopted a very ‘useful’ and ‘effective’ ‘twin track’ methodology which India should emulate. “There has been an influx of Chinese graduate students sponsored by their government who make themselves available as research and teaching assistants on a gratis basis to professors in the US universities, especially the top three institutions in shale gas namely University of Oklahoma, Stanford University and Texas A&M,” Vyas has written.

“The aim,” he believes, “is to develop a pool of Chinese scholars with academic and technical experience in shale gas and other petroleum engineering technologies. Alongside, the Chinese oil and gas companies are also sending ‘industry interns’ to various US companies.”

India, which is staring at a grave energy deficit, as per expert projections, has also begun identifying potential domestic shale gas reserves. Under the National Shale Gas Programme, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation has started studying potential reserves in the country. But, commercial drilling may take a few years. India is believed to have reserves in Cambay, KG onland, Cauvery onland, Assam-Arakan and Indo-Gangetic basins, which ONGC is studying.

“It would be useful if the existing platforms for cooperation and partnership with the US dealing with science and technology, higher education and innovation & entrepreneurship are used for similar opportunities with US universities and industry with a target to develop talent pool in our energy sector especially in shale gas technologies,” the letter states.

Daily News & Analysis, 6 November 2012