India ranks as the world’s seventh largest primary energy producer and the fifth largest energy consumer. With a population of over 1.3 billion, the country’s energy needs are expected to grow about 4-fold from the 524 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) by 2032.
Today, the ONGC is the largest producer of the oil and gas in the country, contributing to about 72.4% of the crude oil and 48.5% of the natural gas production. At present, over 78% of India’s oil requirements are being met by imports.
It is only in the past few years that shale, as a significant source of oil and gas, has caught the attention of explorers. Shale gas has gained widespread popularity in recent years, following the technological advances that have made it commercially viable.
Shale gas is extracted by a process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure. This fractures shale rocks and releases the natural gas inside. This process of causing fractures in natural rock formations is called fracking.
The injected material includes a combination of fluids, chemicals and proppants such as sand and chemicals, which makes the stone surrounding the rock formation to become permeable. This causes the fossil fuel to flow into the production well. This type of drilling has been used commercially for 65 years now.
It has been claimed that this form of oil and gas extraction has enabled the US to become the world’s largest oil and gas producer. It will also enable the US to become energy-independent by the year 2020, according to a report on Forbes.
On the other hand, there are also a lot of myths that surround this technology. It has already been banned in the Netherlands, Germany, France and many other countries. Various states in the US have also banned this due to the great risk it has of poisoning the water sources, which may eventually lead to cancer.
Even though India is lagging behind the major oil producers when it comes to conventional oil reserves, it has a huge potential in shale oil. A few years ago, the ONGC, India’s largest exploration group (according to revenues), hailed the shale gas discovery as Asia’s first. It said that it had been encouraged to explore shale oil possibilities in the basins of the Cambay, Krishna-Godavari, Cauvery and the Assam-Arakan basins as well.
However, the situation has changed now. There is still the doubt over whether fracking should be welcomed or not. The environmental consequences are much worse than what the gas is worth. This process of the fracturing of underground rocks requires loads of water. This process pollutes nearby environments when the poisonous mix of chemicals and carcinogens seep into the groundwater. For a country notorious for the weak implementation of environmental laws like India, fracking can be extremely harmful.
Since a majority of the shale rocks are formed under marine conditions, the connate water that is released during the fracking process is highly saline in nature. This water, along with the proppants used for fracking, can potentially degrade the groundwater reserves present in those areas.
While looking for oil or natural gas, fracking operations leave their stain on the environment. But, what the humans have to pay for this may be even higher. The use of methane, benzene and undisclosed toxic chemicals poses threats to soil fertility, besides birth defects and also cancer, leading to death.
With a whopping 1.3 billion people and groundwater levels depleting at an extremely alarming rate, India doesn’t possess the socio-economic conditions that could potentially support the exploitation of unconventional shale oil, using a process like fracking. Adopting the fracking process in India is like welcoming the evil that has already been kicked out of the developed nations.
The author is the National Director of Green the Gene and has been trained by the former US Vice President and the Noble Laureate, Al Gore.
Featured image used for representative purposes only.