New Delhi: State-run Indian explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC) aims to commence commercial drilling for shale gas next year, its chairman said on Friday.

“We hope to take up at least 10 wells for parameters this year and to start commercial drilling next year," Sudhir Vasudeva told reporters.

India approved a policy to allow state-owned companies to start exploration for shale oil and gas last month, as the world’s fourth-biggest energy consumer moves slowly to seek alternatives to expensive oil imports.

Of about 356 blocks held by ONGC and Oil India Ltd, India’s upstream regulator has said 176 could hold shale resources.

India could be sitting on as much as 96 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of recoverable shale gas reserves, equivalent to about 26 years of its gas demand, according to the US Energy Information Administration.