Ahmedabad: Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd. (ONGC) will explore 30 additional shale gas wells in India over the next two years, chairman and managing director Sudhir Vasudeva said on Wednesday at a function to inaugurate India’s first such well in Ankleshwar, Gujarat.

The company will invest about Rs600 crore for this in the next two years, he said. ONGC had first struck shale gas in at Ichhapur in Burdwan, West Bengal as a pilot project.

Shale gas is natural gas that is found trapped within shale formations. The gas produced from such reservoir rocks is known as ‘tight gas’ and it requires massive hydraulic fracturing technique to produce the hydrocarbon at economic rates. It has become an increasingly important source of natural gas in the US since the start of this century.

Oil minister M. Veerappa Moily said that shale gas exploration would be a major step for India in achieving ‘economic freedom’. “It took six years for the US to become a net exporter from being a net importer of energy with the use of shale gas and oil. Canada was the next country to do so. I want India to do the same."

Last year, ONGC had signed a memorandum of understanding with ConocoPhillips to explore shale gas. The two undertook joint studies in Cambay, Krishna Godavari, Cauvery and Damodar basins based on which a drilling programme was firmed up in Cambay Basin area in Gujarat.

ONGC’s shale gas project is in line with the New Shale Gas Policy that was announced by the Centre in October.

The policy allows ONGC and Oil India Ltd. to explore shale gas and oil in their nomination blocks.

The EIA (Energy Information Administration)—US federal authority on energy statistics and analysis, has revised India’s shale gas estimates of recoverables from 63 trillion cubic feet (TCF) to 96 TCF.

“Our own study in the four basins where we will explore in the next two years is about 100 TCF which is close to EIA’s estimate," said an official of ONGC directly involved in the project. He did not wish to be named.

This (96 TCF) is enough to take care of India’s gas demand for 26 years, said K. Satyanarayana, officer on special duty (onshore), ONGC, said at the function.

By 2015-16, India’s demand for gas is set to rise to 446 mscmd (124 mtpa) against a partial increase in the domestic supply to 118 mscmd (33 mtpa) and higher imports of 170 mscmd (47.2 mtpa). This will leave a gap of 158 mscmd (44 mtpa), according to estimates of the petroleum and natural gas ministry.