What is Shale Gas?
–> Shale gas is natural gas formed from being trapped within shale formations.
–> Shale gas—an “unconventional” source of methane, like coal–bed gas (in coal seams) and tight gas (trapped in rock formations)
–> It is colorless, odorless, lighter than air.
–> In Europe shale gas is not used because of environmental rules and limited property rights.
Potential Sites of Shale Gas in India: Cambay, Gondwana, Krishna–Godavari region, and Cauvery.
What’re the Advantages of Shale Gas?
–> Shale–gas is cheaper than gas, releases 50% less CO2, hence better source for generating electricity.
–> Shale gas power stations are safer than nuclear reactors and cheaper than renewables sources such as solar electricity cell.
–> A flexible fuel, can heat homes, run industrial boilers
–> Shale gas also provides feedstock for the petrochemicals industry, which is turned into plastics, fertilizer and other useful stuff.
–> Experimental Usage as fuel for trucks, lorries and buses.
What’re its limitations/drawbacks?
–> Storage & Transportation = difficult + expensive.
–> Shale gas requires hydraulic fracking method for extraction. Hydraulic Fracking Needs Large Area, Large Water Supply and Guar Gum (Fluid Viscosity Agent).
Extraction of Shale Gas:
–> Shale gas occurs frequently at depths exceeding 1,500 meters (5,000 feet).
–> Extraction is done through horizontal drilling through the shale seam, followed by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of the rock by the injecting of fluid at extremely high pressure.
Effect of increasing shale gas production world over and India:
–> Lowering oil prices making fiscal management & inflation targeting easier.
–> Lower oil price has also led to healthier economic growth & sustainable import bill, which has resulted in surplus fund for social development.
–> Provides an alternative market for oil which is important as India depends on 80% on imports for its oil needs.
–> Apart from that India will now question OPEC’s discriminatory ‘Asian premium‘ added to every import by India whose reason is still not being disclosed. Alternative market also put India in a position to raise the issue of Premium Price charged by OPEC for its oil supply to India.
–> Loss of Monopoly among OPEC will grant India more power in Price – Bargaining & enable diplomatic leverage to sort favorable deals (Chabahar Port operation , Qatar’s investment in NIIF)
–> Enhanced Indo–US partnership, possibility of India adopting technology to tap own shale reserve in Arunachal Pradesh.
–> India can take independent foreign policy decisions as far as gulf region is concerned without the fear of sufficing OPEC like Israel independent visit by PM.
–> Some shale production is natural gas, which is a relatively greenhouse gas–friendly energy source (compared to coal and oil).
Challenges and Environmental concerns:
–> Environmentalists have objected to fracking because of the damage to forest cover and possible contamination of ground water.
–> Also the Land acquisition will be a big problem in India.
–> The gas produced from such reservoir rocks is known as ‘tight gas’ and it requires massive hydraulic fracturing technique. So, the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing locally and downstream of drilling areas is also a big concern.
Though the increasing Shale production is advantageous for India due to stabilized oil prices, India should continue its efforts on tapping the renewable sources of energy, diversifying its energy sources & reduce dependence on oil.