Pan-IIT Brainstorming on to Tap Hydrates

Pan-IIT Brainstorming on to Tap Hydrates

With the expensive liquified natural gas (LNG) being imported from Qatar annually while global oil prices plummet, the focus has shifted to hydrates as an additional viable source to meet future demands.

India is geologically located to produce enough gas from hydrates that can meet national demand for 200 to 300 years, according to experts at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

This indigenous liquified natural gas if made commercial can meet the demands of automobiles, power plants, help fertiliser production while curtailing dependence on imports.


Chemically known as methyl hydrates, these ice-like crystals have whetted the interest of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which along with all the IITs is currently carrying out a large-scale research on identifying, procuring and refining it.

According to Krishnan Balasubramanian, the Dean of IC&SR, IIT-M, although extracting these hydrates that occur hundreds of metres below the seabed can

be expensive, the pan-IIT framework is working with ONGC to figure out a time and cost effective process that can help put it in the market in the coming years.

Hydrates are essentially formed in places where the temperature is low and the pressure high. This rules out any surface hydrates in India as the temperature

on the ground is always above 30 degree Celsius. Away from mainland, they are found along the Mahanadi basin,  Krishna-Godavari basin, Andaman and Nicobar basin.

A pan-IIT system has been established to study different aspects to understand which process works best for each reservoir. For, various aspects like geology, geophysics and temperature, which vary depending on the reservoir, all figure in finding out how to dig for the gold.

The research plans to put hydrates on the commercial market by 2017-2018. “Of course it will be expensive to begin with, but as it becomes more easily procurable the cost margin too will reduce,” says Ocean Engineering Professor Jitendra Sangwai, IIT Madras who is now lab testing Hydrates.

Hydrates research, which is part of several long-term research ventures between the IITs and ONGC, is currently being funded by the ONGC and scaled at Rs 50 crore this year, said a source.

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