India's ONGC finds first shale gas in Asia near Durgapur

By Oil & Gas Financial Journal staff 

Oil and Natural Gas Company (ONGC) marked an exploration landmark on Jan. 25 when it reported that gas flowed out from the Barren Measure Shale at a depth of around 1700 meters (about 5577 feet) in an exploratory well near Durgapur, at Icchapur in West Bengal. Although the well is still under assessment, the breakthrough is significant as India is the first Asian country where gas was discovered from shale outside North America.

The RNSG-1 well drilled down to a depth of 2000 meters (6562 feet). The Barren Measure Shale, which is the main target, was encountered from 985 (3232 feet) to 1843 meters (6047 feet). The well was spudded on Sept. 26 of last year.

In the United States, shale gas production currently contributes to about 17% of total gas production and has been rising steadily the past few years.

In India, many shale sequences are in well-explored sedimentary basins such as the Damodar, Cambay, Krishna Godavari, and Cauvery basins. The shale potential of these basins is currently being vetted by international experts.

However, the Damodar Basin, where ONGC has been drilling for and producing coalbed methane gas, was prioritized by the company shale gas exploration because of the shallow nature of the shale formations and abundant water availability, a pre-requisite for doing massive hydro fracturing.

The R&D project, which involved drilling of four exploratory or “science” wells in the Damodar Basin, two wells in the Raniganj sub-basin in West Bengal, and two wells in the North Karanpura sub-basin in Jharkhand, became operational through the help of M/S Schlumberger, which was given an integrated contract for drilling, assessing, and carrying out the relevant operations including hydro-fracturing in view of that company’s expertise in the United States.

The successful R&D pilot testing of the first-ever shale gas well in Asia puts India on the Shale Gas map of the world. It provides new hope for energy-hungry India as a way of helping the country meet its energy requirements from domestic hydrocarbon sources.

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