For ONGC's statements to be taken as true, the Minister of Oil and Natural Gas should speak up.

Heres proof of ONGCs double speak on its shale gasoil activities in Cauvery delta
news Environment Sunday, August 13, 2017 - 11:04

Yesterday, once again, ONGC has told the people of Tamil Nadu that it has no intention of exploring for or exploiting shale gas or oil in its Cauvery asset.

Extracting hydrocarbons from shale formations involves techniques that are far more invasive, and water - and chemical - intensive, than extracting conventional hydrocarbons. Given their experience with ONGC's ongoing hydrocarbon operations, it is not surprising that delta farmers are not rolling out the red carpet for the public sector unit's shale operations.

On March 24, 2017 – about a month after the Neduvasal protests began – ONGC issued a widely publicised statement that claimed that, "The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (ONGC) is not carrying out exploration of shale gas or coal bed methane in Cauvery Basin and does not have any such plan."

In a September 2015 interview to Business Standard, AK Dwivedi, Director (Operations), claimed that "no policy announced by the State or Centre Governments on Shale Gas so be it ONGC or no company can explore Shale Gas." (sic)

Both the 2015 and 2017 statements appear to be at odds with the Government of India position, and that of the Directorate of Hydrocarbons. In a written response dated 31 July, 2015 to the Rajya Sabha, the Minister of State (I/C) for oil and natural gas, declared that the Government has announced “Policy Guidelines for Exploration and Exploitation of Shale Gas and oil by National Oil Companies under Nomination regime” on October 14, 2013 allowing ONGC to carry out shale Gas exploration & exploitation in 50 blocks and Oil India Limited in 05 blocks in the first phase.

The same response also mentions that several agencies -- including US Geological Services, Energy Information Agency (USA) and ONGC have estimated the presence of commercially viable quantities of shale gas and oil deposits in three (Cauvery Onland, KG Onland and Cambay Onland) to five (Ganga Valley, Assam and Assam Arakan in addition to above three) basins.

As of 13.08.2017, the website of the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons had this to say:

"Current Status on Exploration of Shale Gas & Oil:

"As per the policy guidelines, ONGC have identified and initiated exploration activities for Shale Gas & Oil in 50 nomination blocks respectively under Phase-I. The details of identified blocks by ONGC are as under:

1. Kuthalam, 91 sq. km, License upto 31.05.2021
2. L-I, 948 sq. km, License up to 30.12.2019
3. Greater Buvanapin, 14, 14.12.2027
4. L-II PEL, 1542 sq km, License up to 30.12.2019
5. Kamalapuram I, with Adiyakkamangalam & G. Kamalapuram. 24, License up to 26.05.2019
6. Kuthanallur, 6 sq. km, License up to 25.02.2024
7. Ramanathapuram, 419 sq. km, 20.11.2019
8. Greater Narimanam, 51 sq. km, 26.01.2026
9. Greater Kali, 36 sq. km, 20.07.2030"

Neduvasal falls within the L-II PEL area and Kathiramangalam in the Kuthalam area. ONGC is a multinational corporation, and can claim what it will. But for those statements to be taken as true, the Minister of Oil and Natural Gas should speak up. The website should reflect the changed situation and state that shale exploration/exploitation is being abandoned in deference to people's concerns.

The author, Nityanand, is a Chennai-based writer and social activist.