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  • Tapping Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources: Indian Scenario

    Indigenous endowments of primary and renewable energy resources play an important role in determining any country's energy policy. Natural gas is currently the most promising source for providing sustainable, affordable and low-carbon energy for the economic development of the world. In the near future, unconventional resources like shale, CBM, gas hydrates would play an increasingly important part in maintaining the gas supply balance. Recent assessments indicate that the potential of unconventional gas resources could not only exceed the current conventional reserves, but that they are also spread widely throughout the world, making them more readily accessible to the consuming markets.

    With the development of shale gas resources around the world, improved energy security and economic prosperity is becoming a reality for many countries. While US is the leader in terms of commercialisation and development of the shale gas sector, other countries are clearly keen to be part of the shale gas revolution. Following the leads of US, China has become the second-largest global producer of unconventional gas. In countries, such as Poland, significant exploration has already taken place. In other countries, such as India, the resources are certainly present but much needs to be done in terms of infrastructure and investment before full exploitation is viable. It is somewhat evident that replicating USA experience in other countries will take more time than expected.

    US shale gas success can be attributed to several factors such as advanced technology, efficient and large service sector, availability of gas infrastructure to enable quick monetization, support of US government, laws and regulations, and deep engagement with communities to address issues related to water management and hydro fracturing (seismic impact).

    The Indian gas market is characterized by strong demand driven by a large population and energy intensive industries. Depletion of conventional resources, and increasing demand for clean energy, forces India to hunt for alternatives to conventional energy resources. Intense importance has been given for finding out more and more energy resources; specifically non-conventional ones like CBM, shale gas & gas hydrates, as gas is less polluting compared to oil or coal.

    India has followed various models to facilitate exploration in its vast sedimentary areas and this includes nominated blocks for national oil companies, award of discovered fields on competitive bidding basis, and award of large number of blocks under the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) launched towards the end of nineties. India began awarding coal bed methane (NYSE:CBM) blocks for exploration in 2001; and in the four rounds of bidding 33 blocks have been awarded predominantly to NOC's and Indian private companies.

    Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) has finalised policy guidelines on exploration and exploitation of shale gas and oil by national oil companies under the 'nomination regime'. Based on this, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) would take up 175 blocks and Oil India Ltd (NYSEARCA:OIL) another 15 blocks, in three assessment phases.

    To encourage the allocation of huge amounts of capital, services, equipment and human resources to unconventional gas developments, (Government of India) GoI will have to enact regulatory frameworks that include: fiscal and contractual stability, appropriate and rigorously enforced health, safety and environment regulations, steady and predictable offerings of acreage in bid rounds, and concession or leasing terms that provide investors with sufficient time for the delimitation and development of the productive acreage.

    The key to unlocking gas shales, tight gas sands and coal-bed methane (CBM) has been and continues to be collaboration and advanced technology, which enables solutions to be identified, developed and deployed reducing the risks and costs of production and minimise the environmental footprint of developing these vital resources.

    Apr 04 2:44 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Shift To Utilisation Of Low Grade Iron Ore Inevitable For Indian Steel Industry

    Steel will probably remain the world's one of the most important engineering materials for a long time to come. With strong backward and forward linkages, steel industry is an engine of economic growth and a symbol of economic prosperity. Moreover, steel is vital to the nation's economic security as it is extensively used in strategic areas such as defence, power, atomic energy, and in creation of social and economic infrastructure of the country. Given the importance of steel, the Iron and Steel industry in India has also grown exponentially during the last decade. On the basis of growth witnessed, India has set itself a target of achieving production capacity of 300 MT of Steel by 2025 and the required quantity of Iron ore is projected at 480 MT.

    Over the next few years, demand for Indian Iron ore is expected to rise by more than 500 million tons per year to meet the internal demand and export. As per United Nations Framework Classification (UNFC) of mineral resources, total resources of iron ore in the country is around 28.52 BT (National Mineral Inventory) as on 1st April 2010. Out of this total, 18.88 BT is haematite consisting of 8.09 BT under reserve category and remaining 9.79 under resource category. Remaining 10.64 BT is magnetite consisting of merely 0.02 BT under reserve category and remaining 10.62 BT under resource category. Hence, it is evident that India has vast deposits of superior quality hematite ore, categorised as direct shipping ore, which just needs crushing and sizing to be used as metallurgical feed. However, such deposits are depleting at faster rate. For the projected steel production, existing reserves of hematite will not last beyond 15 - 20 years. Hence additional domestic resources have to be used on priority basis.

    The country has huge amount of low-grade iron ore but exploration and mining efforts to utilise low-grade iron ores have not been sufficient. This includes banded iron formations like Banded Hematite Quartzite (BHQ), Banded Hematite Jasper (BHJ) etc. Such ores invariably have low iron content, less than the cut-off grade of 45 percent. Given the current stage of economic development, it is not only required to explore new deposits but also to make use of low-grade ores, such as these.

    Extensive R&D work is being carried out at various laboratories in India such as National Mineral Development Corporation Research and Development Centre, Hyderabad and Ore Dressing Laboratory at Indian Bureau of Mines on the utilisation of low-grade iron ore for steel production. The flow sheets developed on almost all types of ores reflect the possibility of producing concentrate suitable for sinter and pellet making.

    With regard to BHQ - a low-grade iron ore with iron content ranging between 37 percent and 44 percent as well as liberation size of 100-150 microns - direct grinding of BHQ to -150μ size and then treating with Wet High Intensity Magnetic Separators (WHIMS) can improve the quality of the product to iron content ranging between 55 to 57 percent. This final concentrate coupled with suitable agglomeration technique can be used in blast furnace for steel production. NMDC plans to set up the first BHQ beneficiation plant with a capacity of three hundred thousand tonnes a year at an estimated cost of INR 150 crores, which will demonstrate the commercial viability of the technology for BHQ beneficiation.

    In the light of prevailing Indian scenario it may be concluded that value addition of low grade iron ore is crucial. The process of beneficiation followed by agglomeration will not only conserve the limited high grade lumpy iron ore but will also stimulate optimum utilisation of low grade ores.

    Apr 04 2:39 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Concept Of Coal Banking System: Utilization Of Surplus Coal From Captive Mines

    Coal plays a significant role in Indian economy by contributing over half of country's commercial energy and it is expected to remain the mainstay of India's energy sector. Hence it is important that coal reserve of the country need to be utilized optimally. As per Working Group on coal and Lignite, for twelfth plan production of coal is projected at 795 Million Tonnes whereas demand during same plan is expected to be 980 Million Tonnes. This envisages a need to enhance the domestic coal production as there exists a demand-supply gap of 185 Million Tonnes.

    A committee was formulated by government to analyze existing coal distribution policy and suggest option to enhance production from captive coal mines to augment domestic production. The Committee considers economical benefits from surplus coal of captive coal mines to be brought in the domestic market.

    The objective of the Coal banking system is to utilize the surplus coal available with captive coal miners for the economy, specifically with plants with approved end-use. However, the coal thus provided need to be returned to the original producer. In this system it is assumed the coal surpluses may be initially available with some companies while others may have deficit at that point of time. At a subsequent date, the other set of companies may have surpluses which they would be in a position to return the original company doing the coal banking. Hence, the objective of the system is for smoothening of the demand-supply curve.

    Thus the concept of Coal banking assumes banking of coal with Coal India Limited/other user in same sector and refunds the same consequently in installments. It also analysis advantages of banking the coal to the surplus coal producer. The firm producing surplus coal has two options of disposing coal with either the nearest Coal India (CIL) subsidiary or other firms in the same sector facing shortage in linkage coal from CIL.

    Under current legal provisions of Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 and MMDR Act, 1957 and Colliery Control Rules, 2004, there is no provision of sale of coal from the captive coal blocks allotted. However Government can issue directions for surplus coal disposal under the Colliery Control Rules, 2004. Such directions can provide for its transfer or sale to CIL or any other unit with approved end-use. It requires a specific policy to be formulated which stipulates the terms of disposal and pricing.

    The pricing of surplus coal is proposed to be the price of corresponding grade of coal being charged by CIL from domestic customers. It also proposed by committee that it should be applicable for a period of three years, after which a review may be undertaken and such amendments as may be considered appropriate made.

    A report on coal banking is prepared by B.K Chaturvedi committee which is approved by Prime Minister Office and forwarded to Ministry of Coal to formulate suitable policy in this regard.

    Apr 04 2:30 AM | Link | Comment!
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