The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, which fixes tariffs for the use of pipelines, will “support” creating natural gas storage in depleted oil and gas fields, the Board’s Chairperson, Dr Anil Kumar Jain, told journalists here.

“We will support them (the projects). In the tariffs that we fix, we can build in a little cost to defray the cost of storage,” he said, answering a question about creating storge facilities for natural gas (as for oil) in India.

Dr Jain was here in connection with the government’s campaign to promote the use of piped natural gas, for cooking and transportation.

He said India’s natural gas pipelines themselves can double as gas storage facilities. Indian gas pipelines cumulatively have the capacity to carry 350 million metric standard cubic meters per day (MMSCMD); but today, they carry only about 187 MMSCMD. There is plenty of spare capacity. When more gas is transported through pipelines and all the existing (and upcoming) pipelines are pressed into service, they will be holding a lot of gas, doubling as storage capacity. 

The Ministry has asked GAIL to prepare a plan for gas storage, he said. He added that India has facilities for storing crude oil. The government company, Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd, currently can store 5.33 million tonnes of petroleum in man-made underground caverns near Visakhapatnam and Mangalore. Now, the government is thinking of storage facilities for natural gas too. 

Standards for Green H2 transportation

Replying to another question, Dr Jain said that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) had asked PNGRB to develop regulations, and technical and safety standards for transporting hydrogen through pipelines. The Board is working with the World Bank to learn about the international experience “to see what is possible and what is not.” 

He said that the pilot projects for blending 10 per cent hydrogen with natural gas were underway in Indore, Gujarat and Assam. 

In a press release issued on December 29, 2023, the Board said it had “initiated a study to develop pathways for Hydrogen transmission in natural gas pipelines and City Gas Distribution networks.” The release further said: “The study comprises mapping demand and supply of Hydrogen, Technical Assessment of the existing Pipeline network for its compatibility, Commercial assessment of pipeline sector, identifying bottlenecks in of Policy and Regulatory Framework and framing of roadmap milestones till 2040 for expeditious implementation of Hydrogen blending in India.” The release said that the study would be completed “in a couple of months.” 

Piped gas better than LPG

Dr Jain, who said that the Board would like to see all LPG use move to natural gas, pointed out several advantages of natural gas over LPG. Natural gas is cheaper, it is lighter, and therefore rises, unlike LPG which settles down—this has implications on fire accidents—and is easier to handle, he said.  

He observed that most households were used to getting LPG in cylinders and therefore hesitant to shift to piped natural gas but expressed confidence that it would happen in time.