Shale gas refers to natural gas that is trapped within shale formations. Shales are fine-grained sedimentary rocks that are rich resources of petroleum and natural gas.
Extraction of Shale Gas
Since shale rock is found as below as 3,000 metres from the surface, it requires deep drilling. A mixture of water, chemicals, and sand is injected at a very high pressures to create a number of fissures in the rock to release the gas. This process of breaking up of the rock by using water is known as hydro-fracturing or fracking.
The chemicals used during the extraction process help in water and gas flow while the sand particles enters the fissures of the rock to keep them open. This allows the continuous flow of gas to the surface. The mixture has to be injected several times during the drilling.
Uses of Shale Gas
- Shales contain organic material that breaks down to form natural gas or oil.
- They can be crushed and mixed with water to produce clays that can be made into a variety of objects.
- They are also used for the production of cement.
Advantages of Shale Gas
- Shale gas RELATIVELY releases less pollutants when burnt thus is more environmental friendly.
- Highly abundant in the world, according to a study by The Energy Information Administration (US)
- Shale gas is proven to be quickly producible in large volumes at a relatively low cost.
- Shale gas will give stable and abundant supplies for power generation, transportation and industrial uses, also it will create thousands of new jobs.
- As production of shale gas will grow, so will the GDP of the country.
Disadvantages of Shale Gas
- Being relatively cleaner than coal, shale gas combustion still releases remarkable amount of carbon, thus being less acceptable than renewable energy sources in terms of environment safety. Also the f
- The cost of extracting shale gas is way higher than other conventional gas or coal extraction.
- The extraction process can disrupt many life forms as the noise levels owing to transportation of materials, construction of facilities and drilling process itself is alarmingly high.
- The large amount of water required for gas extraction from shale can result to water scarcity.
Shale Gas in India
India is the world’s fourth-largest consumer of energy and its energy demand is increasing with each passing day. As far as identification and production from shale is concerned, we still have a long way to go. In 2012, a draft policy for exploration of shale gas had been put up by the government. In line with this exploration policy, ONGC signed a MoU with ConocoPhillips to explore shale gas in India. After a thorough joint study by the two a drilling programme was firmed up in Cambay Basin area in Gujarat. After an year in 2013, ONGC proposed to explore 30 shale gas wells across country in the next two years.
Here I would also like to share one untold story which brought prosperity to Indian farmers. And the credit for it goes to shale gas production hike. India’s exports of guar gum shot up from Rs 121 crore ($20.2 million) in 2003-04 to Rs 21,287 crore ($3.5 billion) in 2012-13. Guar gum occupied the top spot in India’s agri-export basket in fiscal 2013. Guar gum,which is used in fracking process for shale gas extraction. The demand for guar gum resulted in increase in its rate from Rs. 3,000 per 100 kg in 2009-10 to the Rs. 30,000 in 2012. This increase in the price is definitely a breather for our farmers and also to our GDP.
US federal authority on energy statistics and analysis, The Energy Information Administration estimates India’s shale gas to be 96 trillion cubic feet. This much energy source can take care of India’s gas demand for the next 26 years. India being an energy deficit country, relies on imports for its energy needs and with shale gas in action we might achieve energy security in the coming days.
In the recent US visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shale gas exploration was one of the top agendas for discussion.
It is too early to say whether shale gas will become a revolutionary energy source or not but it definitely has an edge over the non-renewable sources which are depleting fast and are not environment friendly. It can surely play an important role in achieving energy security, economic prosperity and a cleaner environment for India.
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