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According to the oil ministry, the Indian shale gas market has a potential resource base of 300-1,200 trillion cubic metres and 92 trillion cubic feet of coal bed methane (CBM).
Shale gas is natural gas that is found trapped within shale formations. Shale gas has become an increasingly important source of natural gas in the United States since the start of this century, and interest has spread to potential gas shales in the rest of the world
The unlocking of domestic reserves in India's shale gas market could help India meet its growing energy demand, besides reducing its dependence on expensive energy imports. In addition, the development of the domestic shale gas industry could boost the economy.
India's natural gas market continues to be in a state of deficit, with demand far exceeding the supplies. In FY12, around 38% of the gas demand was unmet. As a result, the dependence on LNG imports has increased and there has been an underutilisation of gas-consuming industries, particularly in the power and fertilizer sectors.
For instance, the average plant load factor (PLF) of gas-based power plants has declined from 66% in FY11 to 59% in FY12.
As the fourth largest energy consumer in the world after the United States, China, and Japan, India has a projected demand of natural gas of 473 MMSCND by 2016, up from its current demand of 173 MMSCMD (1 MMSCMD = 35.32 MCF).
Natural gas output must increase tremendously. To meet the demands, unconventional or alternate hydrocarbon resources such as CBM, shale oil and gas hydrates must be explored.
The global impact of shale gas discoveries could also be significant. For example, under the old assumption that domestic supplies would be limited, companies built LNG import facilities in the US. That trend has now reversed, and there is more interest in conversion to LNG export terminals.
In India, the government is taking up all initiatives to be self-sufficient in energy as the country imports around 80% of its natural resources. India's import bill has reached a whopping $140 billion. With policy initiatives, the region hopes to cut import dependence by 75% by 2025.
In order to replicate the shale gas experience of the US, the country will need strong service and infrastructure capabilities along with a favourable regulatory regime, which not only promotes E&P activities, but also addresses environmental and social concerns.
For more information on the Indian shale gas market, see the latest research: Indian Shale Gas Market
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