A drilling rig in Rajasthan. The discovery of gas in the Rajasthan desert is the first major stratigraphic discovery on the Indian side of the Indus River basin. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Jaipur: State-owned Oil India has discovered huge deposits of hydrocarbons in Baghewala in Jaisalmer in the Thar desert. The search for oil and gas in the Thar desert in recent years has yielded good results, and Cairns Energy, which discovered oil and gas in the Barmer district, has started commercial production in the Mangla oil fields.

The exploratory discovery was made in 1988 in the Tanot area. Subsequently, two more gas fields were discovered at Dandewala and Bagittiba by Oil India.

However with a Venez-uelan company as a consultant, Oil India made fresh efforts to discover oil. After the successful attempt, several wells were identified and the yield from these wells is likely to be good.

According to Ram Lal Jat, Rajasthan's minister of petroleum, gas has been discovered at Ramgarh, Jalalwala, Gamnewala and Gulabwala in the desert. Oil India is trying to estimate the commercial viability of the deposits.

Jat said that in the Tanot-Dandewala, Baggitibba areas of the Jaisalmer basin, the total gas reserves are 9.20 billion cubic metres (bcm), out of which the total recoverable is 6.5 bcm after drilling 36 wells.

Purchase deal

He said Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam, the state government's power generation company, is buying the gas through Gas Auth-ority of India Ltd (Gail) for use in the Ramgarh-based gas power plant. The gas is supplied to the power production unit through a 65 km pipeline laid down by Gail.

Jat said Oil India is likely to produce 1.2 million standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) of gas from its field and is presently producing about 0.7 mmscmd.

Jat also said that another government company, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which is working on six gas fields in the Thar desert, has discovered reserves of 2.9 bcm of very high quality gas at Manehartibba. This deposit has 40 to 70 per cent methane content.

"The company has also discovered a gas reservoir with low methane content where higher fractions of hydrocarbons are practically absent," said Jat.

"But ONGC has discovered gas in Chinnewala Tibba under the Jaisalmer basin with a production rate of 0.1 mmscmd from one well having a calorific value of about 8,000 kcal per kg. This field has the potential to produce additional gas," he added

The discovery of gas in the Rajasthan desert is the first major stratigraphic discovery on the Indian side of the Indus River basin. The exact amount of gas is yet to be fully ascertained.

Speaking on the development, Anurag Bissa, an official of Focus Energy, said: "One of the most interesting parts of this development is that it is an onshore gas discovery. The project has less gestation period in comparison with offshore projects.

"The gas is also easily transportable for commercial use."

The Indus basin that is spread between Pakistan and India has immense potential for oil and gas.

Many companies have reported success on the Pakistan side of the basin including Petronas, BP and OMV.

The quality of gas discovered by Focus Energy is similar to that found in Pakistan's Miano and Sawan fields.

Focus discovery

According to the Rajasthan government's principal oil and petroleum secretary, Govind Sharma, Focus Energy has discovered high quality gas in the Shahgarh bulge area under Jaisalmer on the Indo-Pakistan border.

Sharma said out of 17 wells drilled by the company four have yielded very good results. He said the company has found 9.37 bcm of gas in the reserve in the Shahgarh bulge out of which 7.0 bcm is mineable. Focus Energy has entered into an agreement with the Gail and Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam for supply of gas.

Focus Energy would supply gas soon for the 160 MW power plant that would be installed soon at Ramgarh, on the border of India with Pakistan in the desert.

"The Shagarh basin has the potential of about 7 trillion cubic feet gas reserves since across the Indo-Pakistan border a number of fields, namely Miano, Kandanwadi and the Swan fields in Sindh province of Pakistan, have good gas reserves. In these areas the reserves are estimated to be 30 trillion cubic feet.