With the price of domestic cooking gas hiked once again, Rathnamma, a housewife from Kerala’s Alappuzha district is unaffected, for she owns a well filled with methane.
Rathnamma, 66, from Arattuvazhi of Alappuzha, has been using cooking gas from a deposit in her own compound for more than eight-and-a-half years.
Due to severe water scarcity, her family decided to dig a borewell in October 2011 but they did not find clean water even after digging 75-feet.
“I was so angry and sad. I thought we wasted a lot of money by digging a well. I asked those workers to close the opening of the well as we know that keeping it open is dangerous. They lighted a matchstick near it and to our surprise, there were flames in the opening,” she says, recalling the day they discovered the presence of the gas.
“Later, the plumber brought some high quality pipes and connected the gas to my stove. We readily prepared a coffee using the gas. We were so surprised,” she adds.
The family, however, had concerns about whether the gas would cause any harm. Rathnamma’s husband, who was not at home when they connected the gas, was also confused.
“We feared whether it would cause a blast. I went near the stove and sniffed frequently. But there were no issues at all. Gradually, everyone came to know about this and there were a lot of visitors here. All came to see the well,” she smiles.
Geological Survey of India officials visited the site twice in 2011 and identified it as methane gas. They assured the couple that it was not dangerous. “They said there is no excess gas in the area and the availability may not last for more than two weeks. But I got it continuously for all these years,” she says.
“Officials from the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) also visited two years later but even they said the same. They haven't identified the reason for the availability but said it would finish soon,” says Rathnamma.
From then on, for the next nine years, the family has been using gas from their well to cook food.
“I rarely use LPG cylinders. I have kept my connection but use only this natural gas,” Rathnamma says.
In 2016, there were reports that a village in Bhopal had huge deposits of natural gases, methane and helium, being emitted from tube wells. The villagers had been using them as cooking gas by laying pipes.
Methane can form inside a well due to natural conditions as well as due to some human interventions like mining or dredging. It is present in the layers of rocks.The gas is not toxic but it can cause a fire when it is mixed with air. It is lighter than air.