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How Shale Gas can make India energy independent? The difference in Shale oil & Crude Oil

How Shale Gas can make India energy independent? The difference in Shale oil & Crude Oil


  • GS 1 || Geography || Indian Economic Geography || Energy Resources

What is Shale gas?

  • Shale gas and oil are unconventional natural resources. They are found at 2,500-5,000 metres below the earth’s surface. They are deeper in comparison to conventional crude oil found at 1,500 metres. Shales are fine-grained sedimentary rocks formed of organic-rich mud at the bottom of ancient seas.
  • Subsequent sedimentation and the resultant heat and pressure transformed the mud into shale and also produced natural gas from the organic matter contained in it.
  • Over long spans of geologic time, some of the gas migrated to adjacent sandstones and was trapped in them, forming conventional gas accumulations. The rest of the gas remained locked in the nonporous shale.

Fuel usage in India

  • According to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, India imported 270 Million Metric Ton of crude oil worth $120 billion in 2019-20 alone. The sectors such as transport, industry, household and agriculture are four major sectors that consume the bulk of petroleum.
  • The transport sector is the largest consumer (50 per cent) of petroleum products in India. They mainly consume petrol and high-speed diesel. Road transport accounts for about 37 per cent of the total oil consumption.
  • Industries: They consume about 16-20 per cent of the total oil products.
  • Agriculture sector:High-speed diesel and light diesel oil are the main petroleum products consumed in the agriculture sector.
  • Kerosene and LPG are two major oil products used in the domestic sector. It is generally consumed for cooking and heating in urban and semi-urban areas.
  • India imports 80 per cent of its oil needs and is the third-largest oil consumer in the entire world.

Extraction of Shale gas

  • Past estimates of India’s shale reserves vary widely from ONGC’s 187 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of shale gas in 5 basins to US Energy Information Administration’s 584 TCF of shale gas and 87 billion barrels of shale oil in 4 basins, and oilfield services provider Schlumberger’s 300 to 2100 TCF gas.
  • In 2018, the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas amended Petroleum and Natural Gas Rules 1959 to include shale in the definition of petroleum.
  • In 2013, GoI approved the policy guidelines for the exploration and exploitation of shale gas and oil It permitted national oil companies to engage in fracking.
  • Unlike conventional hydrocarbons, which can be easily extracted from permeable rocks, shale gas is trapped beneath impermeable rocks. It takes a combination of ‘pressurised water, chemicals, and sand’ (shale fluid) to break low permeable rocks and gain access to shale gas reserves.
  • Hydraulic Fracturing: Most Common way to Extract Shale Gas
    • Hydraulic well fracturing (“fracking”) is the process of pumping fluid into a wellbore to create enough pressure to crack or fracture the rock layer.
    • Fractures are created by pumping large quantities of fluids at high pressure down a wellbore and into the target rock formation.
    • The fluid usually contains a “proppant,” like sand, that helps keep the fractures open to allow oil and gas to be produced to the well.


India has identified six basins as areas for shale gas exploration

  • As per the US EIA 2015 report, India has got technically recoverable shale gas of 96 trillion cubic feet.
  • Cambay (Gujarat),
  • Assam-Arakan (North East),
  • Gondwana (Central India),
  • Krishna Godavari onshore (East Coast),
  • Cauvery onshore, and
  • Indo-Gangetic basins

Significance  of shale gas energy

  • Energy security-  Shale gas development can enhance energy security and the availability of energy fuels, lower natural gas prices, offer a cleaner environmental footprint than some other fossil fuels and enable local economic development.
  • Meet energy demands and reduction on imports- Shale gas has the potential to meet the rising energy demands of a fast-growing economy like India. It will also aid in the  Decrease oil and gas import and Improve the balance of payments
  • India’s fragile energy security is under severe pressure from its rising dependence on imported oil, regulatory uncertainty, international monopolies and opaque natural gas pricing policies
  • Shale gas is having a beneficial impact on supplies and consumer prices for natural gas, as well as additional environmental benefits: Natural gas provides a quarter of overall U.S. It is used to generate a quarter of the nation’s electricity.
  • Less pollution caused- It is cheaper than natural gas, releases 50% less CO2, hence a better source for generating electricity.
    • A 2013 review by the United Kingdom Department of Energy and Climate Change noted that most studies of the subject have estimated that life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shale gas are similar to those of conventional natural gas, and are much less than those from coal, usually about half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal;
  • Used in the Fertilizer Industry-It also provides feedstock for the petrochemicals industry, which is turned into fertilizer, plastics and other useful stuff.
  • Useful in the pharmaceutical Industry– Shale energy is not just a source of fuel for generating electricity or for transportation; it is also a raw material used to manufacture many of the products we rely on every day, such as clothing, plastics, pharmaceuticals and equipment.
    • Many industrial facilities like manufacturing plants use shale energy to power their machines. Natural gas can also be used as a fuel alternative for trucks and buses, and to generate critical backup power for intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
  • Employment generation- The economic impacts of shale energy are extensive and growing every day. Shale development has brought hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to our nation’s economy, all while significantly improving the United States’ energy security

Challenges associated with the shale gas Production

  • Water stress-Groundwater is critical to Indian agriculture. Implementation of fracking processes without consultation, particularly on ‘water usage policy,’ may result in larger issues such as water stress, groundwater contamination, and related health hazards (like- dysentery, cholera, poisoning etc).
  • Lack of skilled manpower and poorly developed infrastructure -Along with all of the other challenges associated with the extraction process, the issue of a lack of available land and skilled labour should be addressed.
  • Water contamination due to fracking process-Shale rocks are typically found near rocks that contain usable/drinking water, known as aquifers. During fracking, shale fluid may enter aquifers, causing methane poisoning of groundwater used for drinking and irrigation. To some extent, such contamination can be controlled by keeping a distance between the aquifers and the shale gas fracture zones.
  • Shale oil is a substitute for conventional crude oil; however, extracting shale oil is more costly than the production of conventional crude oil both financially and in terms of its environmental impact.
  • Given the difficulties of the process, the government issued a set of guidelines on environmental management while extracting shale gas. According to the guidelines, these issues will be addressed when environmental clearances are granted in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment process. However, one of the program’s major flaws is that the EIA process does not distinguish between conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons.

Global scenario

  • The United States is by far the most dominant producer of both shale gas and tight oil. Canada is the only country of both shale gas and tight oil producers.
  • Only the US, Canada, and China produce shale gas in commercial quantities, and only the US and Canada have significant shale gas production. While China has ambitious plans to dramatically increase its shale gas production, these efforts have been checked by inadequate access to technology, water, and land.
  • Russia has the largest proven natural gas reserves in the world.


  • India’s energy consumption is expected to grow 4.5 percent every year for the next 25 years. Due to high International Crude Oil Prices, the Current Account Deficit (CAD) inflated because of the higher cost of oil import, raising concerns about long term economic stability in India, highlighting the importance of energy security.
  • Major changes are taking place in the global energy sector, ranging from increased electrification to the expansion of renewable energy, as well as changes in oil production and the globalisation of natural gas markets. To deal with these transformations in the energy sector, India must increase its capacity for research and skill development.
  • The use of domestic shale gas can help India meet its growing energy demands while also reducing reliance on costly energy imports. However, to develop a sustainable shale gas exploration resource in India, the government must comprehensively regulate the fracking process. A sector-specific EIA manual on unconventional hydrocarbon resource exploration and production can serve as a starting point.

Mains model Question

  • According to reports, India has substantial reserves of shale oil and gas, enough to meet the country’s needs for the next quarter-century. However, it does not appear that utilising the resources is high on the agenda. Examine the availability and issues involved critically.