Introduction

There is an increasing gap between the demand for natural gas and its availability in India, which is endowed with only limited conventional methane deposits. In 1997 India produced about 70% of its own methane. Today India produces less than 50% of its own methane. In 2005 it is anticipated that India will produce no more than 36% and by 2010 no more than about 25% of its own methane demands unless new indigenous sources of methane can be identified. Presently the production of gas in India is around 58 million m3/day, and demand is likely to expand to about 285 million m3/day. As there is thought not to be a high likelihood of finding new conventional methane sources in the foreseeable future, India will have to either considerably scale back plans for industrialization and suppress consumer demand or meet its energy requirements from some other source, such as nuclear energy. India could also import methane or develop indigenous methane from unconventional sources, such as: (i) Coal-bed methane; (ii) Gas hydrate; (iii) In-situ coal gasification.

Exploratory assessment of the likelihood of hydrate in the Indian sea-area by the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) established interest in gas hydrate. The topic of Indian hydrate resources was discussed during the Indian Geophysical Union (IGU) conference held in December 1995 at the National Gas Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad, which was attended by many senior Indian geoscientists and engineers. An expert hydrate committee was established by the Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, in 1996 to recommend the steps to be undertaken for the identification and possible development of gas hydrate resource. As recommended by the expert committee, a National Gas Hydrate Program (NGHP) was established. The Gas Authority of India, Ltd. (GAIL) was tasked as the lead agency for coordinating the initial phase of research and

efforts of other Indian governmental and research/industrial activities. A wide range of international hydrate experts were consulted.

Seafloor hydrate is currently subject to intensive research and development studies as part of a national program headed by government agencies. India, being in short supply of natural gas and with a growing economy, is making an all-out effort to evaluate the potential of the vast hydrate energy resource. It is hoped that methane from hydrate could help meet the burgeoning demand for safe energy in India.

India has a very large sea area in which hydrate may occur, although much of it is underlain by deep water in excess of 3,000m (Fig. 1). The Indian national sea area is very large as it extends not only offshore India, but across the Bay of Bengal to link with the Island arc in the Indian possessions centered on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Fig. 1). In addition, because of the almost unique tectonosedimentary situation of India and the adjacent northern Indian Ocean, the likelihood of methane generation in thick seafloor sediments and the capture of this methane in hydrate is excellent.

Figure 1. General location map, 200, 2000, and 3000 m bathymetric contours, delineation of the Indian sea area (dashed), and areas of prospective hydrate deposits (black areas) in which hydrate has been identified from seismic interpretation. East longitude, north latitude.

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