India exploring Australian gas supplies for clean, affordable power: Goyal

India is willing to consider long term fixed price contracts for the supply of petroleum gas, which will enable power producers to enter into a power supply contract at an affordable price, union minister of state for coal, power and new and renewable energy Piyush Goyal said on Monday.

Addressing a roundtable in Brisbane, Australia on the business opportunities for liquefied natural gas and coal bed methane, Goyal said opportunities to control the entire value chain right from gas production, liquefaction, shipping, re-gasification and power generation can be evaluated at the current historic low prices of many of these activities.

Goyal, however, stressed that gas supplies should be at competitive prices since coal-based power is available in India at less than 5 cents per unit. LNG providers should consider supplying gas to India at a price that is comparable, he said.

The minister is leading a delegation for the 3rd India-Australia Energy Security dialogue in Australia.

Although India is running one of the world's largest renewable energy programmes, which aims to increase the capacity 5 times to 175 GW over the next seven years, the minister said, the country will also require gas-based plants which can act as spinning reserve and supply power during deficit times of day (like evenings) when renewable energy production reduces while stabilising the grid.

Pointing out that India is the fourth-largest energy consumer in the world, AK Jana, executive director of GAIL, stated that India has also developed sufficient infrastructure in pipeline transportation, regasification facilities as well as end consumers facilities such as gas-based power plants. These facilities enable the consumption of around 300 MMSCMD, whereas the present consumption is less than 50 per cent of this. This provides good opportunities to countries which have a surplus of natural gas provided it is available at affordable prices, he said.

Meanwhile, to assess the potential of affordable supply of Australian LNG to India, the petroleum ministry has set up an LNG sub-group under the joint leadership of a joint secretary in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas and a senior Australian official. They will be further supported by an operating team as well as representatives from NTPC, GAIL, Petronet LNG and shipping companies. The sub-group will create a roadmap for the collaboration over the next two months.

On their part, Australian companies stressed that new technologies, which help reduce cost of producing natural gas, and the clear shipping routes between Australia and India provide ample opportunities to provide LNG to India at competitive rates.

Additionally, with large increase in coal exploration and production in India, Australian companies can provide Coal Bed Methane (CBM) technologies to India, they pointed out.

During the roundtable extensive discussions were held over efficient mining practices, exploration, mining technologies for opencast as well as underground, reclamation and rehabilitation of mined out areas, mine safety, clean coal technologies and coal beneficiation etc.

Goyal also emphasized the need for wider collaboration in training as well as mine operations safety with more than India-Australia six joint training centres in each of the large mining states esp. in East India.

Virtual mining training was showcased at Queensland government's centre for virtual mining Safety in Mines Testing and Research Station (SIMTARS), which included labour safety, mine planning and refinery operations.

Such training centres can significantly improve productivity while minimizing mine and plant accidents.

The roundtable was attended by officials of the ministry of coal, major coal companies of India, viz, CIL, CMPDIL, NTPC etc and major Australian companies such as Glencore, Rio Tinto, Geo Gas, Carbon Energy, E&Y, Ground Probe and Queensland Resources Council as well as government organisations such as Trade and Investment Queensland.