Shale Gas Extraction- Challenges in India
- 31 Aug 2018
- 6 min read
The article ‘The Shale Gas Challenge’ appeared in The Hindu on 31st
The government has recently approved the policy that allows private and government bodies to explore and put to use unconventional hydrocarbons, including shale gas.
Unlike conventional hydrocarbons that can be extracted from the permeable rocks easily, shale gas is trapped under low permeable rocks. It requires a mixture of ‘pressurised water, chemicals, and sand’ (shale fluid) break low permeable rocks and have the access to the shale gas reserves. Around 5 to 9 million
Considering the challenges associated with the process, the government had issued a set of guidelines
Conventional and Unconventional Resources
- Conventional oil or gas comes from formations that are straightforward to extract product from. Extracting fossil fuels from these geological formations can be done with standard methods that can be used to economically remove the fuel from the deposit. Conventional resources tend to be easier and less expensive to produce simply because they require no specialized technologies and can utilize common methods.
- Unconventional oil or gas resources are much more difficult to extract. Some of these resources are trapped in reservoirs with poor permeability and porosity, meaning that it is extremely difficult or impossible for oil or natural gas to flow through the pores and into a standard well. To be able to produce from these difficult reservoirs, specialized techniques and tools are used.
Even after the acknowledgment of the water requirement for fracking activities, the Government guideline does not provide a general estimate of water requirement per unit of shale gas extracted over a lifetime of a shale well. Various studies have observed that water use per well increases dramatically over a period of time.
Clear identification of the amount of water usage and places of shale gas extraction in India is necessary for considering the challenges that might be faced by the interlinked priority sectors like agriculture.
Water Contamination Due to Fracking
Shale rocks are usually found adjacent to rocks containing useable/ drinking water known as ‘aquifers’. While fracking, the shale fluid could possibly penetrate aquifers leading to methane poisoning of groundwater used for drinking and irrigation purposes. Such contamination can be regulated to a certain extent by maintaining a distance between the aquifers and the shale gas fracture zones. The guideline, however, does not describe the properties of the barrier that can isolate and protect the groundwater. Specification on the government's end is required to avoid the confusion on the part of the extracting agencies.
The fracking process poses another challenge of recycling and leakage issues associated with the
The guideline fails to provide any substantive treatment or to
Indian agriculture is largely dependent on groundwater. Implementation of the fracking processes without consultation, especially on ‘water usage policy’, may result in larger issues including water stress, contamination of groundwater, and related health hazards (like- dysentery, cholera, poisoning etc).
The issues of lack of land availability and skilled manpower should be addressed as well, along with all the other challenges associated with the extraction process.
Shale gas can be a solution for the rising energy requirements for a fast-growing economy like India.