TN yet to tap natural gas potential

R Balaji Chennai | Updated on January 13, 2018

A banner put up against the project in the village - Photo: M Moorthy

Families of the farmers join the protest   -  PTI

Public outcry has stalled initiatives; not enough being done, says industry

Tamil Nadu is yet to tap the benefits of using natural gas as a fuel for home and industry despite its huge manufacturing base and urbanised environment.

According to the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, a phased roll out of City Gas Distribution network covering 28 cities and towns, including Chennai and other major corporations, was envisaged over five years back. But this proposal continues to exist only on paper.

Whether Coal Bed Methane project, GAIL’s gas pipeline project or efforts to tap oil and gas in Discovered Small Fields, all have been stalled in the State due to public outcry. The reasons for the opposition are either that farmlands will be affected or environment will be polluted.

But the industry’s concern is that local tapping of resources may provide for a relatively small portion of the demand and the State government should take efforts to expedite the LNG terminal projects and the pipeline work.

Some of the sectors that would benefit from natural gas fuel are castings and foundries, large baking units, glass, ceramic, pulp and paper units. This is apart from priority industries like power and fertiliser. Last year, at an interaction organised by Business Line, Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Petroleum and Natural Gas, had said Chennai, Bengaluru and Pune, apart from the National Capital Region, are three major destinations for investments by global players. Without a gas grid in the South, the region will “miss out the opportunity for industrial and social development over the next 20-30 years when gas will be the cheapest fuel.”

But little has been done to enhance public awareness or mitigate the opposition to natural gas projects.

Some of the potential users that would benefit from the GAIL gas pipeline project include Salem Steel Plant; KG Denim, Coimbatore; Seshasayee Paper Mills, Erode; JSW Steel, Mettur; Ashok Leyland, Hosur; TVS Motors, Hosur; Roca Ceramics; and Chemplast Sanmar, Mettur.

Piped gas would also have been available to households in the western region of Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, Vision 2023, the strategic plan for infrastructure development in Tamil Nadu announced by the State government in its previous tenure, envisages investments of ₹16,000 crore between 2014 and 2023 to establish a State-wide gas grid and a city gas network.

Apart from the LNG Terminal jointly with IOC in Ennore, it also envisages another terminal in Cuddalore – Nagapattinam area, where a PCPIR is planned. For a State that has such ambitious vision, little is happening on the ground.

Published on March 03, 2017

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