GEECL Still to Get Tamil Nadu CBM Operation Nod
Great Eastern Energy Corporation Ltd (GEECL) has been kept waiting for close to two years to receive the environmental clearances required to start survey work at Mannargudi in Tamil Nadu. GEECL is the first explorer in India to produce natural gas from a coal-bed methane (CBM) block. The production sharing contract (PSC) for the block was signed on July 29, 2010. According to the contract, the explorer would spend the first three years conducting pilot assessment surveys.
“We are waiting for environment clearances for more than one-and half years now. There is no seismic survey. This is at a phase when we want to find out if there is gas or not. We would just take out samples of coal physically by drilling a small hole and send it to a laboratory for testing,” Yogendra Kumar Modi, Chairman and CEO, GEECL, told Business Line.
The lengthy process involved in receiving the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ approval is delaying the project, Modi said. “When a block starts producing, there are environmental concerns. But we just want to take out a small sample. By now, we could have found whether there is gas. In the meantime, the Government could have given all environmental clearances,” he added.
Modi said GEECL, which focuses on monetising CBM assets in India, would be forced to venture overseas if hurdles at home are not cleared. The Petroleum Ministry is yet to decide on the pricing of gas from CBM blocks explored by other companies, such as Essar Oil and Reliance Industries Ltd. “Now I may look (overseas) if India doesn’t resolve issues related to the sector. We have not got the permission to dig a single hole. We were ready to work from the day after signing the PSC,” he said.
Globally, CBM is produced in three countries – the US, Canada and Australia. China, Indonesia and India have recently started tapping gas found in CBM blocks. GEECL, if it happens to scout abroad, will target countries where there is demand and gas production has not taken off, such as Africa. “Africa has shortage of energy and there is lot of coal,” Modi said.