After decades of claims by oil and natural gas exploration agencies, Bengal finally looks set to find a place on the oil map of the world. Union minister for steel, petroleum & natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, has confirmed the commercial viability of an oil and gas reserve discovered in 2018 by ONGC in Ashoknagar of North 24 Parganas, just 47km from Kolkata.
For the past two years, stakeholders had kept their excitement in check as several similar claims of oil finds in Bay of Bengal near the Sunderbans had later turned out to be commercially unviable. But putting to rest speculations, the petroleum minister announced on Thursday that “going by experts”, the ONGC find “can be commercially exploited” and added that samples from the exploration field in Ashoknagar had recently been taken to Indian Oil’s Haldia refinery for further analysis.
“Next week I would come to Bengal and may visit the place. This would be a first-of-its-kind for Bengal,” Pradhan said while addressing the annual general meeting of MCCI over video link.
According to sources, the capacity of the block could be one lakh cubic metre per day of gas and an equal quantity of oil in litres. “Two exploratory wells have been dug there,” the sources said. Besides Assam, no eastern or northeastern state has an operating oil field. Neither is there an operating natural gas field in the region. But Bengal and Jharkhand have operating coal bed methane (CBM) fields which can be used to produce CNG (compressed natural gas). The eastern region has a huge potential for shale gas as most CBM reserves are located here. The CBM players in Bengal, Essar Oil & Gas Exploration and Great Eastern Energy, will soon start exploration for shale gas on the instruction of the petroleum ministry. .
Essar Oil has a recommended reserve of 1.5 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in its block near Raniganj. The estimated shale gas reserve in the region is around 96 trillion cubic feet.