According to geologists of Oil India Limited (OIL), India has large oil and gas trapped in shale and coal deposits in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal. This is enough to meet India’s growing demand as well as make it a major oil exporting nation. Indian geologists have identified about 25 basins for shale gas and oil exploration. With huge stress given to renewable energy by the Modi government, energy demand from non-renewable sources are likely to be hit adversely if everything grows according to plan. If these oil and gas fields are explored many problems like high current account deficit and energy crisis could be solved. While working with big US oil giants, Indian engineers have already gathered enough know-how on fracking- a technology used to extract shale oil. However, things are not rosy enough as exploring these oil and gas need environment clearance. Given the location of the oil belt, exploring these oil have potential to affect Himalayan ecosystem as majority of these fields are inside forest area. Further, exploration of these oil fields could affect underground water quality in the region as well.
If India can explore these oil and gas fields efficiently, then there is potential that India could ask for a place among OPEC nations. This also have the potential to boost Indian economy and can make India a regional power. Besides using soft power in its diplomacy, India could also use ‘Oil Diplomacy’ for expanding its influence and possibly ensure a seat in UN Security Council (which India has been aspiring for past few decades).
Although Union cabinet has given green signal to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas’s proposal to permit state-run oil and gas companies to look for shale oil and gas in their present acreages; it seems as of now Modi government is not interested in it. Moreover falling oil prices and it’s unlike recovery in near future will make some of these explorations economically unviable.
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