New Delhi: State-controlled Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) plans to wheel green electricity to its installations in the Arabian Sea to replace natural gas it uses in operation of oil wells as part of its ambitious decarbonisation programme, its Chairman Arun Kumar Singh said.
India's top oil and gas producer has substantially cut gas flaring -- burning of methane gas is produced when oil is extracted from below surface -- and would look to bring it down to nil as part of its environmental commitments, he said while speaking at the 28th UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, called COP28.
Singh said ONGC uses a lot of gas to generate electricity as well as meet compression and other process needs of an oil and gas field. By 2028, this gas is intended to be replaced with green power wheeled to installations as far as 160 km from the west coast. The gas thus freed will be sold to industries like fertiliser and power plants.
Companies around the globe have pledged to slash down methane emissions by 30 per cent from 2020 levels by 2030. Methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, tends to leak into the atmosphere.
This is sometimes deliberate when companies flare the gas that comes alongside crude oil, due to lack of consumption markets. It also can leak undetected from drill sites, gas pipelines and other oil and gas equipment.
Controlling methane, which has been rising in atmospheric concentration for decades, is seen as one of the easiest and cheapest ways to make an immediate impact on global greenhouse gas emissions.
"We have been working very consistently on reducing methane emissions," Singh said at the session on 'Accelerating the Elimination of Methane Emissions and the Decarbonisation of Oil & Gas.'
"Because of the (Indian) geography and population, we hardly have any scope to flare," he said.
However, a "very small" amount leaked unintentionally because of the "prohibitive" cost of capturing it, he said, adding that ONGC was working with technology providers to check that.
"We want to help the planet by making zero methane from our operations," he said.
Flaring, which used to be done in the past because of lack of customers for gas, has been reduced by almost 80 per cent, he said.
Crude oil pumped out of ground can easily be transported in trucks but to take gas from remote well locations to industries requires pipelines.
Sometimes, the amount of gas coming out with oil is so low that laying a pipeline becomes uneconomical.
"Earlier, we used to flare 14-15 million standard cubic meters per day, but now we are hardly flaring... now it is around 2 per cent," he said. "Still 2 per cent needs to go down."
He said this gas can be mobilised for use in industries.
Singh the ONGC has a substantial consumption of gas for its internal oil and gas field operations. "Basically (for) power generation, pumping, compression and all that."
"In fact, we have aimed that by 2028 we will have a substantive reduction in that by moving to green electricity and release that gas for market," he said.
Green electricity can either be generated offshore using wind turbines or solar panels or wheeled from shore.
"Today, out of total production, 20 per cent of gas we consume ourselves for internal purposes. A substantive portion of this we will take it to green electricity because most production is very close to our shores. So naturally (we can) move green electricity there and run electrification of the rigs, etc," he said.
These efforts, he said, are part of ONGC's decarbonisation drive which will also see the company putting up 10 gigawatt of plants to generate electricity from solar and wind, and constructing a 1 million tonnes per annum green ammonia plant on the west coast.
ONGC is also looking at setting pump storage projects at river dams to meet electricity demand at night when solar power cannot be generated. It will also set up compressed biogas plants to convert agri waste into gas that can be used to generate electricity, make fertiliser or turned into CNG to run automobiles.
The company, which accounts for about two-thirds of India's oil production and about 58 per cent of gas, plans to invest Rs 2 lakh crore on clean energy projects to meet its 2038 net-zero carbon emissions goal.
High pressure gas valued at Rs 816.08 crore was flared in Mumbai High field -- the mainstay fields of ONGC -- during 2012-20, according to a CAG report released in December 2021.
ONGC, however, accepted flaring is a technical necessity.
"During the first quarter of 2022-23, gas flaring has been 2.32 per cent of total gas production. ONGC makes continuous efforts to minimise gas flaring. This gas flaring is a technical necessity for processing of oil and gas at installations to maintain pilot flares for avoiding escape of unburned hydrocarbons into the atmosphere... in order to ensure safety and environmental protection," he said.
During 2012-13 to 2019-20, a total of 1,227.343 million metric standard cubic metres of high pressure gas valued at Rs 1,021.08 crore was flared, according to the CAG report.
French energy giant TotalEnergies' Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne said more widely misunderstood than CO2 emissions, methane emissions have 28 times their warming capacity and come from multiple sources, notably agriculture, fossil fuel production and use, or decomposing waste.
The oil and gas sector alone accounts for 25 per cent of global methane emissions.