The Centre will “go to any extent” to convince Tamil Nadu and Kerala on the need for natural gas pipeline infrastructure, said Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Petroleum and Natural Gas. Without a gas grid in the South, the region will “miss the opportunity for industrial and social development over the next 20-30 years when gas will be the cheapest fuel”, the Minister said.

“We will go to any extent to get the pipeline through,” declared Pradhan at a ‘Breakfast with BusinessLine ’ interaction with diplomats and top executives from the manufacturing and petroleum/petrochemical sectors.

Three key zones Apart from the National Capital Region, there are three zones where global companies are keenly looking to invest: Chennai, Bengaluru and Pune. Gas is the primary resource for all industries, he said at the event moderated by BusinessLine Editor R Srinivasan.

World over the share of natural gas in the energy basket is about 24 per cent, but in India it is less than 7 per cent. Gas-based energy can be used in transportation, power, fertilisers, manufacturing and domestic consumption. It is a clean, affordable and environment-friendly fuel.

Huge investments The Petroleum Ministry is making huge investments in LNG infrastructure and Chennai is getting the first LNG terminal on the east coast. There are over 21.5 million tonnes of LNG gasifiers between Dahej and Kochi on the west coast. LNG terminals are being planned in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, and Dhamra, Orissa.

“We need pipelines and there are no shortcuts to pipelines,” the Minister asserted.

“The North and the West are now well-connected. Gas is available up to Bangalore. But there are social concerns in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which have to be addressed; awareness of the benefits of natural gas has to be created among the public,” Pradhan added. The Centre, the Minister said, has ushered in a business-friendly policy to attract private sector investments in exploration, extraction and marketing of gas and petroleum resources.

A new policy for pricing is in place for existing producers, and marketing and pricing flexibility has been given for new finds from challenging fields such as KG Basin, where the resources are located 200-2,000 metres subsea as compared with the major fields such as Mumbai High, where gas can be tapped in shallow waters.

Licensing policies have been eased to draw in more investors and increase competition. Small fields, he said, have been delinked from state-owned leaseholders such as ONGC and Oil India and will be auctioned soon.

Natural gas will underpin the Centre’s target of providing 24x7 energy in the next few years. With CPCL, Indian Oil’s refinery in Chennai, celebrating its 50{+t}{+h} year, plans are afoot to expand capacity and the region is key to catering to the growing demand for transportation fuel and petrochemical feedstock.

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