India to open shale gas for exploration in 2012

Petroleum and natural gas minister Murli DeoraIndia is planning its first-ever offer of shale gas areas for exploration in 2012, petroleum and natural gas minister Murli Deora said today. The development comes even as the country targets the launch of the ninth and possibility last auction of oil and gas blocks later this year.

"Shale gas (gas locked in sedimentary rocks) is an emerging area. It has become an important source of energy in a few countries which have been able to commercially exploit this resource," Deora said at the signing of contracts for blocks awarded under the eighth round of the new exploration licensing policy (NELP).

India has so far only explored on-land and offshore oil and gas blocks.

S K Srivastava, director general of hydrocarbons, the country's oil regulator, told newspersons on the occasion that the government will appoint an expert by early July to assess potential reserves and then create rules to tap unconventional energy sources before auctioning areas in about a year.

Preliminary estimates show India's shale-gas reserves may be larger than its proven conventional gas deposits, according to P K Bhowmick, president of the Association of Petroleum Geologists.

India plans to join the booming shale-gas exploration business that has fuelled more than $39 billion of acquisitions in the US by companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp, Royal Shell Plc and Reliance Industries Ltd.