India asks firms to expedite efforts to establish shale oil & gas potential

"The idea is to bring shale on the map of India or just close the chapter once and for all within three years," an executive from one of the companies who attended the meeting said.

India is a gas-starved country and imports almost half of its annual natural gas consumption. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants India to be a gas-based economy and increase the share of gas in the country's energy mix to 15 percent by 2030 from 6.5 percent now.

All coal bed methane (CBM) developers were invited to the meeting in January, the executive said.

"A joint group plan is also being explored which will act as a platform of knowledge and infrastructure sharing which could help in expediting shale development," according to the executive.

Currently CBM gas is produced by three companies in India - Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Ltd, Ruia brothers owned Essar Oil & Gas Exploration and Production Ltd and Great Eastern Energy Corp Ltd.

CBM is a kind of natural gas which is found in coal deposits.

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd also has CBM blocks.

Currently the most promising region of shale deposits is around the eastern part of India called as Damodar Valley basin, where the first exploration for shale is expected to start.

(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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