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  Reliance strikes gas in the Bay of Bengal

Reliance Industries today electrified the country by announcing it has struck gas in all the five wells it drilled in the Krishna - Godavari Basin, 30km off the Andhra Pradesh coast. It became India’s first private company to score a huge success in off-shore hydrocarbon exploration.

Several details in the announcement add to the excitement. It is the largest gas find in the three decades since Bombay High came about. One of the wells was the deepest drilled in India at 2,100 feet. [Reliance is now drilling to 6000 feet.] Only 2000 of its total acreage of 1.77 have been explored so far—an indication that more successes may follow. The find is equivalent to 1.2 billion barrels of oil [-work that out at a conservative price of $15 a barrel]. Most appropriately the fields have been named Dhirubhai 1, 2 and 3. The legendary founder of Reliance would be delighted no end.

It will be some years before the gas finds its way to the markets. A monumental feat of engineering awaits: up 2000 feet to the ocean’s surface, 30km along the sea to the coast and several more through on-shore pipes to the consumer. But if any one can do it should be Reliance.

The benefits to the country are enormous. The obvious one is of course economic. The scale of development of industries in the south would rival that along the HBJ pipeline fed by Bombay High in the north west.

The un-obvious implication though, is in geo politics. The find has a huge impact on India’s security and foreign policy. The find will turn India’s gaze away from West Asia to its own south eastern back yard. India will integrate closer with the ASEAN where the future growth is expected to be. The fractious SAARC of today will be less relevant. The Qatar under water gas pipeline has just been shelved. Various schemes to bring Central Asian gas via Pakistan will now be re-valued and re-evaluated.  Bangladesh which has been coy about selling its gas to India, can now keep it. Just think the idea through - it’s a brand new script for India’s future.