The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has wound up its shale exploration in Cauvery basin of Tamil Nadu, saying study results were not encouraging.
The ending of the project, which was still in the study phase, has come as a shot in the arm for environmental activists who have been protesting against the exploration and oil drilling work.
Environmentalist T Jayaraman, who spearheaded methane protests in delta districts, told The Federal that the ONGC has given up its exploration activities because of the region’s geology.
“They have said that rocks found here are very strong compared to the US, where the rocks are brittle, and hence they are unable to set up the oil wells,” he said.
The ministry of petroleum and natural gas had given a nod to ONGC and Oil India Limited to extract all forms of hydrocarbons like shale gas or oil and coal-bed methane under a single licence in 2013. The exploration was planned to be taken up in the Cauvery basin in three phases of three years each.
ONGC initially intended to carry out exploration in 175 blocks across the country, out of which 50 blocks were identified in the first phase. Of these, nine blocks were identified in Tamil Nadu. Oil India was allotted 6 blocks for exploration and given time till 2030 for exploration.
Though it had initiated works to drill exploration wells, it was thwarted due to continuous protests by environmental and political groups.
According to a media report, the ONGC recently told the government that it cannot continue its exploration activities since the study results were not encouraging.
However, the oil giant had drilled about 26 wells in Cambay basin (Gujarat), Krishna-Godavari basin (Andhra Pradesh) and Assam-Arakan basin (Assam).
“The Cauvery could have been the fourth basin, if they had drilled wells. But they are unable to do so. Their effort of drilling wells were stalled in the first phase itself due to people’s protests,” said Jayaraman.
Interestingly in March 2017, following the Neduvasal protests, the ONGC had said that it has no plans to extract neither shale gas nor coal-bed methane in the Cauvery basin.
However, in August that year, the website of Directorate General of Hydrocarbons said that identification of shale gas and initiation of exploration by ONGC in the Cauvery basin was in the pipeline.
The ONGC office in Chennai has reiterated that it has no plans to extract methane or shale gas from the Cauvery basin.