ONGC to Explore Opportunities in Zimbabwe

ONGC Ltd, which has decided to take up coal-bed methane projects in a big way across the country, is now exploring the possibility of extending its technical expertise in this field abroad. The public sector oil and gas major is in talks with Zimbabwe which is keen to develop and commercially exploit coal-bed methane (CBM).

The development of coal-bed methane is in its very early stages in Zimbabwe. However, in a recent policy initiative, the country’s government has decided to seek technical expertise on developing CBM as an alternative energy source. In this connection, a senior government delegation from Zimbabwe had visited ONGC headquarters in New Delhi, last month. “We will collaborate with Zimbabwe at the pre-exploratory stage in developing their reserves of coal-bed methane.

It would essentially involve drilling ‘slim’ holes into the coal bed, extracting a portion of the core and then studying it for traces of methane gas,” senior ONGC sources explained. In particular, ONGC can lend its expertise in studying ‘non-mineable’ coal present in coal seams that may be up to 1 km in depth. The success of CBM and its commercial exploitation has, however, remained confined to only a few countries around the world, so far. While the biggest CBM project is being carried out in the Powder River Basin, in the US, it is also prevalent in Australia and China.

As the biggest CBM operator with the largest acreage under exploitation, ONGC itself, is engaged in the ‘production-testing’ phase of coal-bed methane. It recently decided to invite bids for development and commercial exploitation of six coal-bed methane blocks in the Damodar Valley Coalfields in West Bengal and Jharkhand. These blocks include Jharia, Bokaro and North Karanpura, North Karanpura (West) and South Karanpura in Jharkhand and Raniganj in West Bengal.