Editorial: That Sombre Song Of Ice, Fire & Foot Wounds

Tim Haïdar

"It's one thing to shoot yourself in the foot. Just don't reload the gun" – Linsdsey Graham (1955 - )

Beneath the waters of the Bay of Bengal, a joint endeavour between India’s Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) has struck ice: fire ice.

After five months surveying the offshore segments of the 50,000 square kilometre Krishna-Godavari Basin, the results of this expedition have yielded the presence of several “world class” natural gas hydrate accumulations in conventional sand reservoir systems. Their location in areas easily-exploitable using existing technologies makes the deposits a viable, producible asset for the country fifth on the list of largest energy consuming nations in the world.

Currently, India is the world’s third largest oil importer and third largest coal consumer. In 2015, the world’s most populous democracy unveiled a plan to slash its carbon emissions by one third from 2005 levels by 2030. Although there is no extant technology to produce these hydrates, the pressures on the international community to cut emissions will doubtless drive nations towards such lower carbon energy options.

It is also no coincidence that the confirmation of vast hydrate deposits in deep-water off the Indian coast has prompted a re-ignition of plans by the Indian government to agglomerate and consolidate 13 state-run oil and gas firms into a single, giant hydrocarbon firm.

The prevalence of hydrates in the world’s deep-sea zones and beneath Arctic and Antarctic permafrost layers constitutes the largest source of hydrocarbons on Earth, and could be the lower-carbon solution to a portion of global energy demands, yet current oil prices are a clear roadblock in the path of the research and development needed to bring this vast, untapped resource online.

With a legacy of 64 per cent of oil and gas megaprojects facing cost overruns and 73 per cent tracking behind schedule in 2016, even if the will and finances were there, the ability to take developments from the drawing board to the real life is evidently neither a straightforward nor fully-functional process. It seems the oil and gas sector's weapon of choice packs a high-capacity magazine....