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Status of Coal Bed Methane Investigations in India 229

Status of Coal Bed Methane Investigations in India

1Formerly of Lucknow University, Lucknow
2Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow

During the present days of energy crises and increasing gap mitigating policies particularly Clean Development Mechanism
in the demand and supply of energy all over the world, it is (CDM) to follow for reducing the effect of global warming. The
utmost important to make a judicious usage of all the energy very idea was to utilize the resources through modern methods
resources to its best exploitation in up and down-stream sectors, which are though very costly but are advanced technology
and also to search for the alternate non-conventional energy oriented, and have shown very positive results in energy
source for meeting the present and future energy requirements spectrum of USA, Europe, Australia and now in the developing
for sustainable development and economic growth. Further, due economy of China. These technological advancement support
to the increasing demand and price escalation, compelling could be provided to the country in need by transferring the
environmental challenges due to global warming, indeed, the technology for the exploitation of the energy resources for the
coal has become dearer not only to the US also but for the rest sustainable growth and development. This could be achieved by
of the world as it still provides the cheap option for electricity doing the amendments in the rigid laws/ constitution so that the
generation through its combustion characteristic though with a resources could be best utilized through private-public
lot of pollution component to atmosphere (WCI 2005). Modern partnership, also open the resources foreign companies for
world needs a lot of energy for sustainable development; till direct investment, transfer of the innovative technology on
date, the energy requirements are being met by primary mutually agreeable terms under government policy of that
conventional energy sources like coal, oil and gas, though the country. This has heralded the periods of a lot of mutual
countries that are deficient in coal resources or have exploited collaboration, innovation in research and development in energy
their shallow coal deposits in last two/three decades have no sectors, in-depth characterization of coal, development of the
option but to go for other source of energy for meeting their new technology related to source and reservoir aspects, and
requirements or by imports. As in case of European countries sharing the varied data for sustainable development and growth
who have almost closed their coal mining activities owing to the of the country.
depletion of their shallow depth coal resources, and the deep-
seated coal exploitation is too costly under the present
technological know-how, but the advent of new technology for This has led to the development of US-India Energy
Dialogue a Coal Working Group Plan was initiated in August,
Coal Bed Methane, underground coal gasification and CO2 2005 was signed in 2006 highlighting the various aspects of
sequestration has given a ray of hope to exploit the deep-seated mutual benefits. It states “Recognizing a mutual interest in
coals in UK and Germany to meet the future energy demands if collaborating in the field of development of fossil energy
planned to exploit simultaneously (Chapple and Mostade,1998). technologies; recognizing a need to advance the objective of the
World Energy Report (WCI 2005) have indicated that US Government of India, which focuses on practical approaches to
energy demand in coming years is bound to increase. US dealing with energy requirements; and recognizing their mutual
Energy scenario vis-a-vis growing need of cheap energy for the interest in creating an attractive climate for domestic and
developing and other under-developing economy of the world foreign investment in the energy sector of their respective
together with the hazardous effect of greenhouse gases leading countries, and in an efficient and environmentally sound
to global warming due to the enormous usage of fossil fuels- infrastructure.” The backbone of the whole exercise was
mainly -coal for generating electricity, manufacturing steel and “COAL” and its various facets for the sustainable growth,
making cement for their sustainable development and economic economic development along with necessary environmental
growth, is a matter of grave concern. This and quadruple constrains. Coal Bed Methane and Hydrogen – the fuel for the
increase in gas prices has USA prompted the to prepare a new present and future generation was of the important agenda,
plan for future energy securities not only for itself but for the having the establishment of “Coal Bed Methane/CMM Clearing
growing economies of the world resulting into a lot of efforts in House” in India as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
research and development. Bush energy plan has endeavoured (USEPA) and U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA)
to develop the Future Gen project using coal as a base resource has developed successful clearing houses in China, Russia, and
material. The very idea of this project was for evolving a Ukraine. USTDA’s interest in supporting the clearing house is
concern for future hydrogen economy. Concerned about the to promote and provide expert assistance in CBM/CMM/
need and pattern of the consumption of energy by rapidly ACMM resource modeling. United States Department of
growing economies USA has played an important role in Energy (USDOE) would facilitate the discussions between
persuading the developed and developing countries through UN India (MOC, CIL, CMPDI, etc.,) and U.S. experts and
efforts to make them ready for the preparation of future energy technology providers. Coal Working Group thus formed would
scenario under Kyoto protocol and varied climate hazard share information on a) Business opportunities in India,
including the Coal Vision 2025 document and other related
information, b) Regulatory information for India

* E-mail:
230 Glimpses of Geoscience Research in India

and U.S. coal-mine operations, including websites, c) Relevant the year 1997 and also to provide a clear, transparent
information on the Gorbi Mine project and related U.S. coal- mechanism to deal with the resources for the sustainable and
mine reclamation activities and lessons learnt including acid economic development following Kyoto Protocol guidelines.
mine water drainage, d) Relevant pilot projects and active R&D Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas became the administrative
initiatives in U.S. coal industry, specifically for recovery of Ministry and Directorate of Hydrocarbon (DGH) became the
fines by micro-cell technologies and coal liquefaction by both implementing agency for CBM policy. DGH functioning under
direct and indirect methods. It would also Develop a high-level the ministry of MOP&NG plays a key role in the development
Work Plan Document for coal preparation/waste utilization; of CBM resources in India. Considering the global experiences
mine safety/productivity; mine closure/reclamation; in-situ coal and competitiveness in CBM market, Govt. of India has offered
gasification; coal-bed/coal-mine/abandoned-mine methane; ash very attractive terms viz. no participating interest of the
utilization, coal liquefaction; emerging technologies including
government, no upfront payment, no signature bonus,
CO2 capture and storage; and future technology paths. exemption from the payment of customs duty on imports
required for CBM operation, walk out option at the end Phase
I&II, freedom to sell gas in the domestic market, provision of
Energy Scenarios-India report depicts a 20% increase in fiscal stability and seven years, tax holiday for the growth of
primary energy consumption in Asia out to 2020 (Peter Scaife et this new CBM industry so that varied national and international
al., 2006, CRC Report, 2005-06, coal in sustainable companies involved in CBM exploration and exploitation
development, Australia). Over the last two decades, Asian activities could participate and make a significant growth in
energy demand has increased on an average by 4.5 per cent per
CBM sectors in India.
annum compared with 1 per cent growth in North America and
Europe. The increase in the consumption of coal in Asia has
been even more rapid, averaging in excess of 5 per cent per Recently, Union Minister of State for Petroleum and
annum over the past 10 years. The continuing importance of Natural Gas Dinsha Patel said. India’s natural gas production is
coal in powering economic growth is indicated by the eight-fold likely to increase to 55.03 billion cubic metre (BCM) by 2010-
increase in coal consumption for electricity generation in the 11 and to 63.23 BCM by 2011-12. The country’s production of
Asian region from 1971 to 1995. Electricity demand in Asia natural gas in 2006-07 is estimated to have been 31.742 BCM
grew seven-fold during the period 1971 to 1995; over the period as per projection made by ONGC, OIL and private companies
1995 to 2010 it is expected to grow more than double. Coal is and joint venture companies in the country. In order to boost the
presumed to maintain its share of electricity generation in the production of natural gas in India, the government is
region of over 60 per cent in the period to 2020. The same accelerating the pace of exploration for oil and gas by offering
increase is expected in coal consumption, being mostly related large acreages under successive rounds of New Exploration
to power generation and secondly for the production of steel and Licensing Policy (NELP), Patel said recently. Many in the
cement. This has resulted enormous pressure on Government of industry feel that the seventh round of NELP is likely to be
India to adopt new strategies for the resource characterization of announced soon as the government focuses on increasing
varied energy inputs, and provide the best possible production through accelerated development of new discoveries
infrastructure for adopting new technology to the industry and increasing recovery factor from the existing fields.
involved in exploration and exploitation of conventional and Incidentally to supplement the availability of natural gas, the
non-conventional fossil fuels. Coal bed methane, an government is already exploring and trying to facilitate
unconventional source of natural gas from the coal beds is now development of alternative resources, such as coal bed methane
considered as an alternative source for supplementing the (CBM) and is venturing in exploration of gas hydrate resources
country’s energy resources. Earlier, in the absence of proper for future options for availability of alternative hydrocarbon
administrative, fiscal and legal regime, CBM Exploration and resources, Patel said. He said that so far, the government has
Production activities were confined to research and awarded 26 CBM blocks in different coal fields of the country
development only. The characteristic environmental, technical and efforts are on to carve out some more blocks for offer under
and economic advantages have made Coal Bed Methane not future rounds of bidding. The exploration activities have
only an opportunity fuel in Combined Heat & Power (CHP) established encouraging CBM resources. There have been
technology but also a global fuel of choice. Not only the significant finds in the eastern and central parts of India.
escalating natural gas prices but its continuance to be at rise side Development plans have already been approved by the
in coming future, make the CBM as opportunity fuel in view of Government for one such block in West Bengal. Here
its excellent heating value, fuel cost, equipment cost, emission/ commercial CBM production for the first time in the country
environment, DER/CHP potential. Opportunity fuel: any fuel has been already initiated at 23,000 cubic m per day, Patel said.
that has a potential to be used for economically-viable power India is the third largest producer of coal in the world. If
generation, but is not traditionally used for this purpose e.g. coal effectively recovered, coal-bed methane gas associated with
bed methane, anaerobic digester gas, biomass (General) black coal reserves and emitted during coal mining could be a
liquor, etc. significant potential source of energy in coal-rich but often
economically poor regions. Utilisation of CBM would introduce
a clean energy source and reduce local pollution and emissions
of greenhouse gases. The projects on CBM, a clean energy
India being the 4th largest proven coal reserves and being option which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and can meet
the third largest coal producer in the world holds significant local energy demand,
prospects for commercial recovery of CBM. This results in the
formulation of Coal Bed Methane Policy in
Status of Coal Bed Methane Investigations in India 231

are often capital intensive and need additional support from held with various CBM producers in the US. Three wells were
internationally agreed mechanism like clean developmental drilled, hydro-fractured and de-watered in Cambay Basin to
mechanism (CDM). Meanwhile, companies like ONGC in the successfully test the lignito-bituminous coals. The economic
government sector and Essar in the private sector, have already viability of the project has been established. The efforts were
committed huge investments in developing CBM. Recently supported by GIIC; the project was sponsored by USAID under
Essar had reportedly found a CBM seam in one of its oil blocks PACER. Incidentally, there had been certain roadblocks in
in Gujarat and the company is now awaiting permission to start extraction of CBM as there were certain issues like how
further work on the project. The Board of Directors of ONGC, extraction of coal and CBM could be done simultaneously in a
on the other hand, has already approved an investment proposal block as per the prevailing govt. guidelines. The issue related to
of over Rs 950 crore, for exploration and development of CBM simultaneous exploitation of coal and CBM in the same area
in six blocks in Jharkhand and West Bengal. had been discussed by Ministry of Coal and Ministry of
Petroleum and Natural Gas along with other concerned agencies
The project, which was scheduled to begin production in and an expert committee was constituted in March under the
June 2007, had been slightly delayed. An estimated peak Chairmanship of the Adviser (Projects), Ministry of Coal. Other
production of 7.84 lakh cubic metres of gas per day is being members in the committee were representatives of Directorate
targeted from the proposed development wells. Out of the General of Hydrocarbons, Oil Industry Safety Directorate,
projected expenditure, Rs 557 crore has been earmarked for the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute, Directorate
development of early CBM production in Central Parbatpur area General of Mine Safety and Coal Controller as an invitee with a
of Jharia block and Rs 392 crore has been approved for drilling, Deputy Secretary of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas as
completion and testing of 22 pilot wells in Jharia, Bokaro and Member Secretary.
North Karanpura CBM blocks, with completion schedule of 31
months, from the date of placement of letter of intent (LoI). The ORIGIN OF METHANE
Jharia CBM block is located within Jharia coalfield, around 25
kilometres east of Bokaro Steel city. The total area of Jharia Coal bed methane evolve during the transformation of the
block is 84.5 square kilometres, out of which the Parbatpur area organic matter in the swamp, which later converts into peat
comprises 18 square kilometres, and the area under the present after burial under reducing condition. As temperature increases
production scheme is 6 square kilometres. ONGC will deploy the peat converts into lignite followed by sub- bituminous,
advanced drilling technology, viz. Horizontal -Inseam- bituminous low-volatile medium-volatile, high volatile
Multilateral drilling technique for the first time in India, after its anthracite and graphite. This process is known as coalification.
proven success by CBM operators in Australia and the US. During this process at early stage biogenic methane evolve,
While the Jharia nomination block is jointly held by ONGC (74 later thermogenic methane is formed. Much of the methane
percent) and Coal India Ltd (26 percent), in other blocks like generated by the coalification process escapes to the surface or
Raniganj in West Bengal, ONGC will have 90 percent stake and migrates into adjacent reservoir or other rocks, but a portion is
CIL 10 percent. In Bokaro and North Karanpura, ONGC will trapped within the coal itself. In early stages of coalification,
have 80 percent stake with the rest being shared by Indian Oil biogenic methane is generated as a by-product of bacterial
Corporation. In South Karanpura and North Karanpur-West respiration. Aerobic bacteria (those that use oxygen in
Block in Jharkhand, ONGC will be going alone. Coming to respiration) first metabolize any free oxygen left in the plant
Essar Group, which was one of the first private business houses remains and surrounding sediments. In fresh water
in India to participate in bidding rounds for exploration blocks environments, methane production begins immediately after the
in 1993, has got participating interests in several blocks in India oxygen is depleted (Rice and Claypool, 1981). Species of
and overseas for exploration, production and development of anaerobic bacteria (those that don’t use oxygen) then reduce
oil, gas and CBM. It was the first Indian company to recognise carbon dioxide and produce methane through anaerobic
the CBM potential in India in the early 1990’s and undertake respiration (Rice and Claypool, 1981).
drilling, hydro-fracturing and de-watering of three CBM wells,
in the Cambay Basin, near Mehsana in Gujarat. The economic When a coal’s temperature underground reaches about
viability of the project was established through this pioneering 122°F and after a sufficient amount of time, most of the
work and currently efforts are underway to obtain rights for biogenic methane has been generated, and about two-thirds of
development of CBM in this area. Essar’s drilling services have the original moisture has been expelled, the coal attains an
been revived with the acquisition of 13 oil field rigs including
approximate rank of sub-bituminous (Rightmire, 1984a). As the
one coring rig (CBM) and one semi-submersible for its in-house
temperature increases above 122°F through increased burial or
requirements, as well as for contractual services. The company’s
increased geothermal gradient, thermogenic processes begin
Raniganj block, of which Gardes Energy, US, is the drilling
and additional water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen are generated
technology partner, is spread over an area of 500 sq. km located
as coalification proceeds to approximately the rank of high-
in the coal belt of the Eastern Raniganj Coalfields. The
volatile bituminous (Rightmire, 1984b). Maximum generation
estimated reserves are about 42 BCM. Essar was the first Indian
of carbon dioxide, with little methane generation occurs at
company to recognise the potential of CBM in India in the late
about 210°F. Generation of thermogenic methane begins in the
1980s and wanted to undertake CBM drilling. Discussions were
higher ranks of the high volatile bituminous coals, and at about
250°F, generation of methane exceeds generation of carbon
dioxide. Maximum generation of methane from coal occurs
232 Glimpses of Geoscience Research in India

at about 300°F. With even higher temperatures and higher rank the micro-cleat under UV light, Gas composition and
coals, methane is still generated, but at somewhat lower percentages, desorption characteristics, adsorption isotherms
volumes (Rightmire, 1984 a and b). Primarily adsorbed on or study, Permeability and porosity Cleat and fracture pattern,
absorbed within micro pores of the coal. analysis of cleat- filled minerals, quality of adsorbed water etc.
Coal bed methane is found associated with the coal/ lignte Besides, reservoir engineering and modeling, the rock
beds. This is the product that evolves during the process of mechanical testing etc. are also to be carried out.
coalification generally more in quantity than the coal can hold.
Some of the gas escape in the surroundings but some of it lie in Facies play an important role in the development of the
the coal under hydraulic pressure. Coal is unique in its huge Gondwana coal deposits in India that mainly lie along the
behaviour as it acts as a source as well as a reservoir rock. five major tectonic lineament viz; Damodar-Koel valley, Son-
Generally the gas content increases with rank. Mahanadi valley, Wardha- Godavari valley, Pench-Kanhan-
Tawa valley and Rajmahal area. The economically important
coal deposits occur in Barakar and Raniganj formations of
Permeablity in coal is the result of naturally occurring Lower Gondwana Sequence in Damodar Valley basins i.e.
fractures referred to as cleats. Generally the coal bed acts as an Jharia, Raniganj, East Bokaro, West Bokaro, Ramgarh,
aquifer in view of its richness in water holding capacity in Girdeeh, North Karanpura and South Karanpura - a store house
comparison to other conventional gas reservoir owing to the of huge potential area for the development of CBM and also in
higher internal surface area. Methane is normally adsorbed in other basins in their time-equivalent strata viz. Kamthi in
the internal surface of the coal and can not be easily detected by Godavari valley. The coals of Tertiary age are mainly
conventional gas-well drilling technology. To produce the gas developed in Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil
from the coal reservoir, water must be pumped out, and suitable Nadu, Rajasthan and Gujarat and are of lignitic to sub-
methods should be chalked out for the disposal of the water, bituminous in rank and are mostly thought unsuitable for coal
depending upon the quality to avoid the environmental problems bed methane target however, new information on methane
in and around the area. As each basin has its own geological occurrences were recorded in the lignitic horizon of
characteristics vis-a-vis coal characterization, hence to make Mannargudi and Bahur areas of Tamil Nadu has opened a new
analogy of one basin with others may not be fruitful and is window for CBM development in south India. Neyveli Lignite
rather often misleading as comparison of San Jaun and Powder Corporation of India is planning to work for CBM development
River Basin does not hold to the expectation of the CBM in the area in near future. The targeted area has 5500 MT of
developers (Fails, 1996) in Europe. Therefore the techno- lignite deposit containing the likely gas reserves of 8250 MCM.
economic aspects should be dealt with fuller understanding of The geological setup compares well with the Powder River
the basinal characteristics. Basin, northeastern Wyoming, USA, In this basin, wells
produced about 823 Mcf per day of coal bed methane US
Department of Energy, 2002). The geological characteristics of
The preliminary assessment of CBM resources of the
Tamil Nadu/Mannargudi lignites depict deltaic lacustrine
country can be adjudged by their coal resources. It has been settings showing the following average thickness of seam is
estimated that there are over 909 billion tonnes of proven coal 45m, ash varies from 2-12% reflectance varies from 0.35-
reserves worldwide and distributed on every continent in over 0.41%. Lignite beds are associated with aquifer zone, mostly
70 countries, with the biggest reserves in the USA, Russia, occurring at varying depth of 50-600m Besides the most
China and India. Therefore a very good prospect for CBM
availability exist in the country. All fossil fuels will eventually important gas content is of 1-2 m3/t. The total basket containing
run out and it is essential that we use them as efficiently as such geological and coal characteristic seems to be the potential
possible. While it is estimated that there is enough coal to last us areas of CBM development in southern India. The depositional
155 years, this could extend still further through a number of environment of Powder River Basin, northeastern Wyoming
developments including: the discovery of new reserves through and southern Montana, is of deltaic lacustrine setting of
ongoing and improved exploration activities; advances in Paleocene age The seam average thickness is of 30 m, ash is of
mining techniques, which will allow previously inaccessible low to moderate, reflectance ranges from 0.34-0.39% in oil,
reserves to be reached. Additionally, significant improvements lignite acts as aquifer between less permeable sand stones The
continue to be made in how efficiently coal is used so that more gas content is in order of 1-74 Scft/t (0.03-2.3 m 3/d). The
energy can be generated from each tonne of coal produced. analogy of comparing the basin properties may give rise-some
(Optima 2005, WCI, 2005). For the prospectivty of CBM in any idea/ confidence for getting the exploration licence for the
virgin area, the acquisition of varied exploration and laboratory production of CBM in the targetted areas. But the experiences
data are important viz., The total area of the project, the number from European basins i.e, Kent, Oxford and Western Ruhr
of seams, their thicknesses, roof and floor characteristics along Basin of Europe show abnormal anomalous relationship of
with the bands of each seam together with their time and space various parameters i.e., coal rank vs in-situ methane content:
relationship in the area; proximate and ultimate analyses, rank rank of these basin indicates the higher content of CBM in seam
of coal, geological structure, hydrological regime of the area than what exists today, similar situation can also be observed in
geothermal gradient, reflactance, maceral composition, Bristol-Somerest Basin where medium-volatile and high-
microlithotypes, mineral matter as per International volatile A bituminous coals occur; As the rank increases the
Commission For Coal and Organic Petrology(ICCP), CBM content also increases with depth. It is
fluorescence microscopy for ascertaining
Status of Coal Bed Methane Investigations in India 233

most acceptable view point in CBM prospectivty but it has metres of CBM resources. Expected total production from these
come in the notice that the rank and methane contents also vary blocks is estimated at 23 Million Standard Cubic Meters per
laterally. This suggests that rank and CBM contents have time Day (MSCMD) at their peak production level. Over the last
and space relationship, evidences for such observation has come three years, more than 75 exploratory (test) wells have been
from the most important CBM basin of the world viz. Black drilled in the awarded blocks. The Directorate General of
Warrior and San Jaun basins of USA (National Coal Board, Hydrocarbons recently offered an additional 10 CBM blocks
1960; White, 1991). In view of the above facts, it is important during a third round of open international competitive bidding
that every basin/project should be viewed on the basis of its own that closed in June of 2006 (Prasad, 2006).
merits/demerits so that the reservoir modeling for the
exploitation of CBM resources could be initiated, and
Estimates of India’s CBM potential vary. One source
accordingly the technology should be planned with cost
estimates up to 2 trillion cubic meters of CBM in 56 coal basins
economics. The thickness of seams is 45 m in the Tertiary coals
covering 64,000 sq km. Coal in these basins is high volatile to
in petroliferous basin of Cambay, Upper Assam and Assam–
low volatile bituminous with high ash content (10 to 40%), and
Arakan may be prospective owing to reported higher gas
its gas content is between 3-16 cubic meters/tonne (Singh,
content, which is probably stored in the coal after generation
from deeper-lying hydrocarbon source beds or may be of 2002). The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons estimates that
biogenic origin. The first CBM was reportedly discovered from deposits in 44 major coal and lignite fields in 12 States of India
Cambay Basin of Gujarat by Essar Oil Group. India is among covering an area of 35,400 sq km contain 4.6 TCM of coalbed
the top ten countries in coal resources, having an estimated coal CBM depending on the rank of the coal, depth of burial, and
reserve of 160 million metric tons, with an estimated methane geo-tectonic settings of the basins (Prasad, 2006).India is a non-
resource of 850 BCM. The coal characterization particularly its Annex 1 country under the UNFCCC and it is not obligated to
Physico-chemical characteristics of Raniganj and Barakar coals reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Its first national
have shown their susceptibility to spontaneous combustion communication provided emissions estimates in 1994. These
leading to coal fires in the Raniganj Coalfield, West Bengal, emissions are projected to continue to grow as the economy
India (Saxena et al, 1990). Most of the mine fire accidents expands (EIA, 2004a). India accepted the Kyoto Protocol in
during the period of eight years were found to occur in Raniganj 2002. As a Non-Annex 1 party, India is eligible to receive
coal seams R-X,R-IX,R-VIII,R-VII,R-VI,R-V,R-IV,R-III,R- financing for GHG mitigation projects such as CMM projects
II,R-I due to Spontaneous combustion in the area suggesting the under the Clean Development Mechanism.
richness of Raniganj coals in CBM contents. The rank
parameters were also suggestive of the possibilities of high Cost and investment capital remain significant barriers to
CBM generation in these beds. Petrographic composition also technology development, application and CMM and CBM
facilitate the movement of these gaseous content through the project development in India. Several research and development
microscopic fractures i.e. the cleats. As evident, methane play resources are available, including the Central Mine Planning
an important role in causing the fire accidents considered earlier and Design Institute (CMPDI) and the Central Mine Research
as mining hazards if not attended carefully. But now, this has Station (CMRS). Gas demand is rising sharply in India, and
became a resource for future energy needs. CBM industry is in CMM and CBM will compete with imported natural gas and
infancy stage in India and need to be very careful in LNG to meet it (Singh, 2002). Coal India estimates a supply
characterizing and interpreting the coal data viz., Tectonic gap of approximately 40 billion cubic meters that must be met
history, Depositional environment, thickness of the coal strata, by imports. CMM and CBM gas would compete favourably
no of coal seams and their thickness in time and space with imported coal, gas, or LNG on a fuel cost basis for power
relationship, quality characteristic of the targeted seam i.e. generation (INR 1.82 v. INR 2.14 - 2.48 per unit of generation)
proximate and ultimate analysis, Relectance characteristic and (Singh, 2002). There is an assured market provided
its behaviour in time and space, Cleat Characteristics, generally deliverability infrastructure is developed (Singh, 2002).
based the data packages on the earlier work done in the Investment in coal and gas transportation infrastructure,
Gondawana basins for other coal utilization purposes. including gas gathering, transportation and distribution, are
necessary to fill this gas and to move CMM and CBM from coal
fields to local and more distant end-use markets. End-use
markets include rural power generation, commercial power
Imported Equipment for CBM Development Exempted
generation, and transportation fuels. A memorandum of
from Customs Duties (DGH, 2004-05) understanding between the Ministry of Coal and Ministry of
In May 2001, the Indian government for the first time Petroleum & Natural Gas governs the procedures for CBM
offered blocks for exploration and production of CBM through exploration and exploitation. CBM blocks are allocated after
an international bidding process. Reliance Industries, Essar, and mutual consultations between the two ministries (Prasad, 2006).
ONGC won the bids for the blocks. The government launched a The Ministry of Coal oversees coal resources while the Ministry
second round of bidding on nine CBM blocks in May 2003 of Petroleum and Natural Gas oversees CBM resources. India’s
(USEPA, 2005a; Chand, 2001). Eight blocks were awarded to heavy reliance on coal, much of it low-quality, is a major cause
Reliance and ONGC. To date the Ministry has offered 16 of the country’s relatively high carbon intensity level.
prospective CBM blocks in the first two rounds of bidding Environmental standards for limiting gas emissions from
covering an area of around 7,800 square kilometres and surface or underground coal mining
estimated to contain 820 billion cubic
234 may join the rank of the few countries that commercially
produce CBM. During XI Five Year Plan, CBM gas production
operations, as well as emissions from coal and gas combustion,
are largely lacking. Prices of coking and higher quality steam
coal were deregulated in 1996. Complete deregulation of prices
for all coal qualities took place in 2000. Prices now vary
according to quality, but mining companies are still unable to
set prices that reflect full production costs. Coal import duties
were reduced from 85 percent to 10 percent between 1994 and
1997. Import taxes were reduced from 35 percent to 3 percent in
Coal reserve of the North-Eastern Region upto a depth of
600 metres, as assessed by GSI as on 01.01.2006 is 945.03
million tonnes only, which is just 0.37% of the national total
coal production but it has its own importance so a as the
sustainable and economic development of these areas are
concerned, The mines include a) Assam: i) Makum Coalfields,
ii) Dilli-Jeypore Coalfields; b) Meghalaya: i) West Darangiri
Coalfields, ii) Balphakram-Pendenguru Coalfields, iii) Siju
Coalfields, iv) Langrin Coalfields, v) Bapung Coalfields; c)
Arunachal: i) Namchik Coalfield, and d) Nagaland: i) Borjan &
North-Eastern Region coals are characterized by Ash
: 4% to 25%; Volatile Matter : 34% to 45% Calorific
: 5500 to 7500 K.Cal/Kg ; Sulphur : 1.5% to 4%
(predominance of organic sulphur) ; Caking Index : 5
to 31.and at present used by various sectors, like
power, cement, paper, brick burning, cookeries, tea
gardens and other local industries. The coalfields lie
in remote areas and depicts that the main problem of
NEC’s u/g mining is high seam gradient & high
degree of gassiness. Considering the characteristic
coal properties particularly its gassiness it could be a
good resource of CBM potential in the area besides
the development of local market of tea garden,
ceramic, and cement.


CBM is a natural gas (methane) adsorbed in coal and
lignite seams and is an eco-friendly source of energy. Coal is
both the source and reservoir rock for CBM. CBM production is
done by simple depressurization and dewatering process. To
harness this new source of energy in the country, the
Government approved a comprehensive CBM policy in July,
1997 for exploration and production of CBM gas. As of now, 23
CBM blocks have been awarded through competitive
international bidding under first three rounds of CBM policy,
under which blocks are being operated by technically competent
companies, 2 blocks were awarded on nomination basis and one
block through FIPB route sixteen CBM exploration blocks are
under operation and contracts for 10 blocks under CBM-III have
been signed recently in November, 2006 (against which 54 bids
had been received). Thus, Government has signed contracts for
26 blocks covering an area of 13,600 sq. km. The total
committed investment in these blocks is of the order of Rs. 675
crore. As on 1.4.2006, Rs. 170 crores was already invested by
the operating companies in CBM blocks. In just 4 blocks, over 6
TCF of gas reserves have been established. In 2007-08, India
Glimpses of Geoscience Research in India

is envisaged as 3.78 billion cubic metres (MOP&NG, 2006-07).

With the declared intention of moving towards market-
determined pricing for petroleum products, Government
announced the dismantling of the Administered Pricing
Mechanism (APM), effective 1.4.2002. However, there has been
an unprecedented, sharp and spiraling increase in international
oil prices, particularly since late 2003, combined with
considerable week-to-week and even day-to-day volatility.
Therefore, Government in June 2004, elucidated the principles
which would govern its policy of containing the burden of
increase in international prices on consumers of sensitive
petroleum products. It was decided that the burden should be
equitably shared by consumers, the Government and the oil
companies. CBM product would also covered by this policy.


Significant CBM Exploration Activities

The CBM potential the country is of highly encouraging in
nature, but the main impediments on the way to exploit these
resources are lack of technical understanding and experience,
insufficient training and education skills, lack of advanced
technology suited to mining and geological conditions and little
understanding of the market conditions and commercial issues.
In India, 16% of the area is identified for exploration, 22% of
the area in which the exploration has been initiated 62% area of
Gondwana (35000 sq km is unexplored). Total coal bearing area
is of 35400 sq km consisting or 44 major coal and lignite fields
distributed in 12 states depicting the prognosticated CBM
Resources of 162 TCF (4.6 TCM). Indian energy sector has
shown that there is no change in the position of coal but the gas
demand will increase from 8% to 10%. And would continue to
increase there by widening the gap between demand and supply.
According to some estimates that CBM could be able to
contribute up to 15% of India‘s natural gas production. The
CBM distribution chart statewise share is more encouraging for
future development. The current activities in CBM exploration
and production depicts that 16 Blocks were awarded under
CBM- I & II, Area Opened-up for CBM Exploration: 7800 sq
km CBM resource in the awarded blocks are to the tune of 820
BCM. The production Potential of these Blocks are 23
MMSCMD with a exploration commitment of 121 Core Holes
and 211Test/Pilot Wells. The cost of the project was to the tune
of US$ 150 million. The success story of this project indicates
the significant discovery of CBM in central & eastern part of
India with a steady flow of 10,000 m3 of gas per day was
achieved. Drilling of pilot/development wells are in progress.
Commercial potentiality of the identified fairways was
established. The commercial production was expected in the last
end of 2007. During this operation air drilling technology
employed for the first time in India for drilling of CBM test
wells. Faster drilling and well completion rates of average 7
days/well and 15 days/corehole achieved against an average of
60 days required earlier for similar operations. To establish the
commercial potentiality of the
Status of Coal Bed Methane Investigations in India 235

identified fairways in different blocks, additional 80 wells are basin filling during the Gondwana period with that of adjacent
proposed to be drilled. Continuous CBM gas flaring is in Rajmahal Coalfields and at the same time displays some
progress in the test wells drilled in eastern and central parts of characteristic features of coal formation unique to this coal
India. basin. Here, Barakar Formation contains four thick to very thick
Coal seam zones. In the south central part of Pachami area, a
CBM MARKETING PATTERN IN INDIA super-thick seam of 91-159m has developed over a strike length
The present scenario of rapidly increasing demand of CBM of 2 km. This prolific development of Coal is hitherto
is highly encouraging for the year 2006-2007 the demand was of unreported in any Gondwana basin. The concealed nature of the
231 MMSCMD and supply was 95MMSCMD and expected to basin, development of very thick/ super-thick seams containing
grow from 168 MMSCMD supply demand was 313 MMSCMD sections of good quality Coal and the pervasive heat flow from
in the year 2011-12 and in the year 2024-25 supply would be 200 m thick volcanic suite to underlying coal measures all
170 MMSCMD while demand is expected to grow upto 391 contribute to the CBM potentiality of the field. Desorption and
MMSCMD (DGH,2006) Directorate of Hydrocarbons recently adsorption isotherm data generated from the northern part of the
took new areas for CBM exploration activities in CBM-III field shows that coal seams often store 5-6m 3/t of gas. One
BIDDING. Based on the characteristic properties viz; CBM block viz. BB-CBM-2005/III covering an area of 248 sq
occurrence of thick coal seams at favourable depth, high seam km is on offer for exploration and production of CBM. The
density, good thermal maturity, favourable permeability, good CBM resource of the block is estimated at 50 BCM (1.77 TCF).
gas content, sizeable coal reserves. Recently, Govt. of India
further announced 10 blocks in order to explore and produce
(CBM). Out of these, two blocks each are located in the States
of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Encouraged by the result of exploratory drilling activities
Rajasthan and one block each in Jharkhand and West Bengal in the two CBM blocks awarded under CBM-I round of bidding
(MOP & NG, 2006). The geological characteristic of these located in the central part of this coalfield, it was felt
blocks along with necessary reservoir characteristics have been appropriate to carve out a block NIO.p65 2/20/ 2006, in the
provided in detail as follow : north-northwestern part of this coalfield. The northern part of
Sohagpur coalfield has a complex history of dolerite intrusion,
which may influence the generation of gas. The exploration in
RAJMAHAL COALFIELD, JHARKHAND Nigwani-Bakeli area within the proposed block revealed the
Rajmahal coal belt is defined by several disconnected coal occurrence of Barakar coal measures below 300m cover of
basins viz., Hura, Chuperbhita, Pachwara, Mahuagari and Barren Measure and Raniganj Formation. Five regional seams
Bramhani Coalfields along the western fringe of the Rajmahal are developed in Barakar Formation. The cumulative coal
hills. This area constitutes a prominent Cretaceous tholelitte thickness in the block varies from 3-10m. The borehole in CBM
volcanic province in the East Indian crustal block. The coal block shows that coals attain higher rank with low moisture and
measures are exposed in the eastern marginal part of a large high carbon content. Gas seepage in nearby area also indicates
master basin which extends from Purnea trough in north Bihar, storage of gas in deeper seams. The adsorption isotherm of
across the Rajmahal hills to the Bengal basin in the southeast seam-I (558m) at 47.31 atmospheric pressure give moisture
which have a unified history of basin development in Lower equivalent gas content of 6 m 3/t. Proximity of the Sohagpur
Gondwana period (L Permian). The guiding factors for North block to the prospective CBM blocks in the central part
delineation of a CBM block in this coalfield include occurrence of the Coalfield lends credence to the possibility that the
of thick coal seams (about 40-60m) below a variable cover of fairways of the blocks in the southern part may extend to this
300-600 m of younger strata with an average gas content of 5-6
northern sector. One CBM block viz. SP (North)-CBM-2005/III
m3/t. The adsorption isotherm shows sorption content of 7.1 – covering an area of 609 sq. km is on offer for exploration and
production of CBM. The CBM resource of the block is
8.7 m3/t of gas at a pressure of 46.66 to 57.19 atmospheric. One
estimated at 16.72 BCM (0.59 TCF).
of the main reasons for greater gas generation and storage is the
exposure of coal seams to varying thermal regime below an
extensive cover of Rajmahal volcanic suite and the low stress SINGRAULI MAIN BASIN CBM BLOCK, MADHYA
regimes in relaxed structural setting. One CBM block viz. RM- PRADESH
CBM-2005/III covering an area of 469 sq km is on offer for
exploration and production of CBM. The CBM resource of the Singrauli Coalfield is a major repository of coal in the
block is estimated at 158 BCM (5.58 TCF). heartland of the country. It is a composite basin composed of
Moher sub-basin in the east and main sub-basin on the west
which are separated by a concealed basement high. The Moher
BIRBHUM COALFIELD, WEST BENGAL sub-basin is well known for prolific coal development where
The Birbhum Coalfield excepting a narrow strip on the extensive mining operation is in progress. The main sub-basin
western margin may be regarded as a concealed coalfield, where has very large spread where the Barakar coal seams of Lower
Barakar coal measures of Lower Gondwana sequence is covered Gondwana sequence (Permian) are concealed below a variable
under a thick sequence (132-322 m) of younger horizons. This cover of younger sediments. The deeply buried coal seams of
Coalfield may be best described as the south-westerly extension the main basin offers good prospect for CBM exploration. The
of Rajmahal coal-belt in West Bengal. Birbhum coalfield, thus, Barakar coal measures in the main sub-basin where the CBM
shows some common history of block has been carved out, contains eight coal seams. The
236 Glimpses of Geoscience Research in India

isotherm for coal occurring at 300-600m depth level show gas gas on coal. One CBM block viz. MR-CBM-2005/III covering
content of 8.3-9.7 m3/t at pressure of 49.79-66.96 atmosphere. an area of 634 sq km is on offer for exploration and production
The persistent development of moderately thick Barakar seams of CBM. The CBM resource of the block is estimated at 119
of high volatile bituminous B/C rank, with an average gas BCM (4.2 TCF).

content of 4 m3/t with localized supply of heat from igneous SOUTHERN GODAVARI VALLEY COALFIELD
intrusions, all in combination are likely to contribute to CBM (KOTHAGUDEM), ANDHRA PRADESH
gas generation and storage in seams. One CBM block viz. SR- The Godavari valley coalfield is the largest Gondwana
CBM-2005/III covering an area of 330 sq km. is on offer for basin covering an area of about 17500 sq km in Andhra
exploration and production of CBM. The CBM resource of the Pradesh, India. It extends in NW-SE direction from the border
block is estimated at 31.0 BCM (1.1 TCF). of Maharashtra in the heart of central India to the east coastal
region. The basin is filled by 6000 m of sediments of early
TATAPANI – RAMKOLA COALFIELD, CHATTISGARH Permian to Cretaceous age and is the major coal-producing area
Tatapani-Ramkola Coalfield occurs in the structural in south India. The Gondwana basin displays a typical rift
junction between the Damodar valley and the Son valley structure with prominent boundary fault along its margin and is
Gondwana basin belts. The basin depicts structural and analogous to the petroliferous Cooper basin of Australia where
stratigraphic similarity with that of adjacent Gondwana basin of large resource of gas has been estimated from Gondwana
the Damodar valley whereas the pattern of coal formation and equivalent horizons. The coals of the Godavari CBM block
sandstone dominated cycles of Barakar coal measures are more belong to high-volatile bituminous B/C rank. Desorption studies
characteristic of the Son valley belt. Because of the close indicate that coal seams in the 600-1000m depth range within
similarity of its basinal history with that of the Damodar valley the CBM block, may hold on an average 4-5 m3/t of gas. The
belt which is a major store house of CBM, it is logical to look CBM block has been delineated in the eastern side of the
for CBM potentiality in the virgin Tatapani-Ramkola Coalfield. Kothagudem area and covers part of the main sub-basin across
NIO.p65 2/20/2006, Exploration in Barkagaon revealed the the Paloncha neck in the dip side of Anisetthipalli and
occurrence of twelve regional Barakar coal seams at a depth of Kothagudem blocks. The CBM block shows development of
300-750 m. Adsorption isotherms of Coal from Barkagaon show lower Gondwana sequence comprising coal-bearing Barakar
a sorption capacity of 7.4-8.1 m3/t of gas at a pressure of 58.2- Formation, Barren Measures and upper coal measures of
86.7 atmospheric in the block. The coalification gradient in Raniganj Formation. The Barakar Formation of Kothagudem
Tatapani -Ramkola coalfield is suggestive of significant sub-basin where a large part of the CBM block is located
methane generation in the deep-seated seams of the CBM contains two coal seams. The cumulative coal thickness shows
blocks. One CBM block viz. TR-CBM-2005/III covering an variation from 4.5 m to 26 m. One CBM block viz. KG (East)-
area of 458 sq km is on offer for exploration and production of CBM-2005/III covering an area of 750 is on offer for
CBM. The CBM resource of the block is estimated at 53.78 exploration and production of CBM. The CBM resource of the
BCM (1.9 TCF). block is estimated at 57.2 BCM (2.02 TCF).


The Mand-Raigarh Coalfield occupies the central part of
the upper Mahanadi valley Gondwana belt and extends over a The Barakar Formation (Lr. Permian) of the Lower
large stretch lying between Ib valley in the east and Korba and Gondwana sequence is the main coal-bearing unit. Presence of
Hasdo-Anand Coalfields in the west and north west. The one coal seam has been recorded from Raniganj Formation (Up.
practically virgin Mand-Raigarh Coalfield provides ample Permian) also. The coal-bearing Barakar Formation is exposed
opportunity for exploring CBM in the deeper axial region of the along the northwestern margin of the basin where extensive
basin. This coalfield displays a shallow synclinal structure with mining operation is in progress from Dorli-Belampalli belt in
axis trending in NW-SE direction and the southern basin margin the north through Somagudem-Indaram in the centre to
is demarcated by the prominent boundary fault. In the central Ramagundam belt further south. The dip side of these mining
part of the coalfield where Barakar coal measures lie at greater belts is considered to be the most potential target area for CBM
depth below the younger sediments, a CBM block has been exploitation. In these areas, as many as 10 coal seams of 0.6 to
demarcated. In general twelve coal seams are developed in 18.2 m thickness have been established in Barakar Formation
Barakar Formation. The cumulative coal thickness in the CBM though 4 to 5 seams are more persistent. The coal seams are by
block varies from 30 to 35 m, the Coal thickness tends to and large high-volatile bituminous ‘B’ in rank with vitrinite
increase towards south near Chhal area. The coals broadly reflectance of 0.6 – 0.7% within 600m depth limit. There are,
correspond to high volatile bituminous ‘B’ to ‘C’ in rank. With evidences of enhancement of rank of coal with greater depth of
the increase of depth of burial the coal seams are likely to store burial. Adsorption isotherm of Barakar coal seams and limited
substantial amount of methane. Desorption studies of coals desorption data show that the coals are likely to store 4- 5 m3/t
indicate that deep-seated coal seams in the CBM block hold at of gas upto 1000 m depth, which may increase at greater depth
least 4.5-5.5 m3/t of gas if not higher. The hydrogeological of burial with better permeability due to intensive high fracture
sudies also reveal that the coal seams are under normal density in rift setting. One potential CBM block viz. G
hydrostatic pressure, which will facilitate good sorption of V(North)-CBM-2005/III covering an area
Status of Coal Bed Methane Investigations in India 237

of 386 sq km in the northwestern part of the Godavari HIGHLIGHTS

Gondwana basin, is on offer for CBM exploitation. The gas in
ONGC operates 9 CBM blocks in the states of W. Bengal,
place resource of the CBM block is estimated at 29.65 BCM
Jharkhand, Maharashtra, M.P & Gujarat CBM blocks in
(1.05 TCF) within a depth range of 450 to 1500m.
Jharkhand in terms of resource concentration are comparable
BARMER BASIN, RAJASTHAN with the producing basins of USA and Australia, 41% CBM
acreage holding in the country with 54% of CBM resources,
The Barmer basin which lies in the Thar desert of
Planned to put CBM to market by 2007
Rajasthan, is a narrow elongated rift extending from Fatehgarh
Fault in the north to Sanchor depression in the south and shows Market Scenario Ready market in the vicinity of
continuity with the Cambay graben of Gujarat. The sedimentary production, prospective consumers Steel, Power & Refractory
sequence in Barmer basin ranges in age from cretaceous to industries; Positive returns at gas selling price of US$5/
recent, having a maximum thickness upto 4 km. Thick lignite MMBTU.
horizon is reported to occur at variable depth over the length
and breadth of the basin. The lignites occur in middle Eocene CBM to Market from Parbatpur Area in Jharia
Tharad Formation and its equivalent Thumbli Formation in the To begin with development of 6 sq km from Central Part
basin. This lignite-bearing sequence is homotaxial with the Kadi
of Parbatpur area of Jharia field, CBM Block with 14 horizontal
and Kalol Formation of Cambay basin. The geological and
geophysical investigations carried out during the last decades, multilateral wells.
by some international oil/gas operators gave a fillip to the search GREAT EASTERN ENERGY CORPORATION (GEECL)
for CBM in Barmer rift. Based on an integrated study of seismic ENDEAVOUR
data and borehole records, it is observed that the lignite horizon
attains its maximum thickness of about 60-70 m in the deeper CBM Production
part of the basin and it reduces to around 20-30 m near the
In 2007-08, India has joined the rank of the few countries
faulted basinal margin. The adsorption isotherm studies of
samples from one of the borehole, conducted by DGH revealed that commercially produce CBM. During XI Five Year Plan,
encouraging results. The desorption tests indicate a gas content CBM gas production is envisaged as 3.78 billion cubic metres
(GOI, 2006). Great Eastern Energy Ltd begins CBM
of 3-4 m3/t of gas in 600-1200 m depth range. Further, the production. The block is located adjacent to Asansol industrial
seismic survey depicts that the lignite seam is often city in Burdwan district of West Bengal offering the company
faulted/fractured which may account for high permeability. ample opportunity to sell CBM locally. The company has also
commenced CNG supplies (with 96 per cent methane content)
through six stations in and around Asansol, (GEECL) plans to
Two CBM blocks viz. BS(4)-CBM-2005/III in the western raise Rs 300-350 crore ($83-88 million) loan finance from
flank and BS(5)-CBM-2005/III in the eastern flank of Barmer domestic and foreign sources to complete the first phase of
rift, measuring an area of 1168 sq km and 739 sq km development of Ranigunj CBM block. The company - listed in
respectively have been carved out and are on offer for CBM the AIM segment of the London Stock Exchange - has earned
exploration and production. The estimated CBM resources of the reputation of pioneering the commercial production of coal
BS(4)-CBM-2005/III and BS(5)-CBM-2005/III are 82.0 BCM bed methane (CBM) in India from its Ranigunj block in West
(2.9 TCF) and 38 BCM (1.34 TCF) respectively. Bengal. Company has already invested approximately Rs 175
crore through equity in drilling 23 production wells. Current
ONGC’S EXPERIENCE IN CBM production is roughly 760 thousand cubic feet a dayand
expecting the production to touch 1.5 million cubic feet a day
Total coal resources allocated to ONGC for the
(mcfd) shortly. The 210-sq km nomination block is located
development of CBM is 248 BT. Out of this CBM resource is
adjacent to Asansol industrial city offering the company ample
expected to be 35 to 105 TCF. Virgin CBM, Coal Mine
opportunity to sell CBM locally. To begin with, GEECL will
Methane (CMM) and Abandoned Mine Methane (AMM) are enter into two firm supply agreements with a local ceramic
Yet to start. CMM &AMM also hold great potential. manufacturer and bakery for replacing liquid fuel with CBM
ONGC’s Initiatives Started in next week. The company has also commenced CNG supplies
(with 96 per cent methane content) through six stations in and
1995: Drilled first R&D well in Durgapur depression, West around Asansol. CNG is priced at Rs 30 a kg. A joint venture
Bengal. proposal is currently being worked out with Indian Oil for
1997: First CBM flow in the country from a well drilled in transfer of the piped city gas distribution business including the
Jharia Coal field, Jharkhand. distribution pipelines. “Investment in coal and gas
1999: Drilled 3 more Exploratory wells in Parabatpur area of transportation infrastructure, including gas gathering,
Jharia Coal field. transportation and distribution, are critical to move CBM from
• 2000-2002: Unique multizone completion resulting coal fields to local and more distant end use markets.”
into test flow of 3.5 BCF of CBM from a single well. Impelling need for meeting out the gas requirement, the work
carried out by Great Eastern Energy Corporation (GEECL) a
• 2003: Established sustained production rate- 225000 part of YKM Holdings Group and the pioneers in bringing in
scfd per well. technology for exploration and development of Coal Bed
• 2004-2005: Formulation of pilot development plan,
beside enhanced exploratory efforts in CBM acreages.
238 Glimpses of Geoscience Research in India

Methane makes CBM available for commercial sale purpose for possible reducing green house gases effect on the earth together
the first time in India at Asansol and distributes Coal Bed with the needed energy securities for sustainable growth.
Methane in India for the first time at Asansol. Gas demand in
India far exceeds supply and with the gap widening
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