Reliance, HP to bring natural gas to West Bengal

By Sujoy Dhar, IANS

Kolkata : West Bengal, in midst of an industrial resurgence and growing vehicular pollution, would receive natural gas in three years to convert vehicles to run with greener fuel, state Industry Minister Nirupam Sen said.

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Sen, who was recently in Mumbai to hardsell West Bengal before investors, told IANS in an interview: “I had a talk with Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani. He said a gas pipeline could be brought to the state from Andhra Pradesh by 2011.”

Sen said his government was also negotiating with Hindustan Petroleum (HP) for compressed natural gas (CNG) supply by strengthening an existing company called Greater Calcutta Gas Supply Corporation Ltd (GCGSCL).

“Gas is very important for West Bengal since unless we get enough supply we cannot convert our vehicles to CNG. Talks with Mukhesh Ambani was very positive,” Sen said.

“To reduce pollution, a massive overhauling of the transport sector is required. To do that we need adequate CNG supply. We are not only talking to Reliance but also HP so that the already existing GCGSCL network could be strengthened.”

RIL has discovered natural gas reserves in the Krishna-Godavari basin off Andhra Pradesh coast. The discovery was made in a block, about 30 miles from Machilipatnam in the state’s south.

The exploration block was awarded to the country’s private sector oil and gas giant in the fifth round of auction under the new exploration licensing policy.

While crude refining and marketing of finished petroleum products is the core area of HP, the company has also ventured into piped gas distribution in major cities.

Sen said the potential of coal-bed methane in West Bengal’s Ranigunj coal belt area was also being explored.

“Coal-bed methane is a great source of energy found abundantly in the coal belts. We plan to start commercial production through Great Eastern Energy Corp Ltd (GEECL),” Sen said.

GEECL is the first private sector company in India that entered this field. GEECL’s pioneering effort is helping in maintaining the ecological balance in West Bengal’s coal bearing areas where methane gas is escaping into the atmosphere and damaging the ozone layer.

GEECL is exploring and developing production wells for coal-bed methane in Damodar river valley around Raniganj coalfields. The coalfields are near Asansol in West Bengal’s Burdwan district.

“GEECL has already signed an agreement with leading public sector oil company, Indian Oil Corp (IOC), for retailing CNG from the state-run firm’s petrol stations in some areas,” Sen said.

Currently, methane gas from coal beds accounts for approximately 7 percent of total natural gas production in the United States.

“Clean energy is our priority and it is not just about Kolkata, it is a global issue now,” Sen said.

Earlier, GAIL Indian Ltd and Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd (ONGC) had signed an agreement to invest about Rs.30 billion for laying a 1,000 km pipeline from Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh to Haldia in West Bengal to transport natural gas discovered by ONGC in the Bay of Bengal.

Owing to infrastructural failure and livelihood problems, Kolkata has repeatedly failed to convert to greener fuels or phase out polluting vehicles. It would perhaps be different this time.

According to a recent study, some 70 percent people in the city suffer from disorders caused by air pollution.