India Could Begin Gas Hydrate Exploration in December

In December this year India will embark on a gas hydrate 'resource mapping' exercise for two months by drilling for cores at promising locations in the deep waters off Andhra Pradesh, Goa and the Andaman Islands. The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons is expected to solicit 'Expressions of Interest' for a deepwater drillship that can drill in depths of between 1,000-2,000 meters very shortly. Drilling at ten locations is planned. Five in the Krishna Godavari basin, including two on Reliance's prolific NELP-I exploration block KG-DWN-98/3.

"We have seen gas hydrates in the well logs from this block," an oil ministry source tells us. Two locations are offshore Andaman and two or three offshore Goa and Kerala. Three holes will be drilled at each location, each to a depth of about 500 meters. One hole will be 'cored' at each location and a total 3,000 meters of cores removed. These will be transported for storage in nitrogen containers at low temperature and high pressure to ONGC's Institute of Oil and Gas Production Technology where they will be analyzed.

Pre-drill studies such as shallow, high-resolution seismic surveys and current and wind surveys will precede core drilling.

At first the oil ministry wanted to hire the drillship Joides Resolution now working with the International Ocean Development Program but this was aborted, as Joides is unavailable before 2006. Another proposal to issue a limited tender to Fugro for its drillship Ocean Explorer now drilling for gas hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico and to Schlumberger, "who showed interest in our gas hydrates exploration program" was also dropped over inviting 'Expressions of Interest' for a deepwater drillship.

A budget of Rs100cr ($20m) has been set aside for the gas hydrate coring and resource mapping exercise of which $12m is likely to be the hire charge for the drillship.

ONGC's Institute of Oil and Gas Production Technology is preparing a gas hydrate pilot production model. The first pilot is expected to be ready for production in 2006-07.

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