Prashant Modi – Coal mining occurring in CBM blocks

Prashant Modi - CBMCBM blocks by Prashant Modi

One of the main issues which companies such as GEECL have faced during their attempts to bring coal bed methane production to India is the overlapping of CBM blocks with conventional coal mining blocks. Here, Prashant Modi explains the problem in more detail, and suggests some possible solutions.

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It was the Ministry of Coal which sectioned off the coal blocks in India, Prashant Modi says, and gave these sections to the Petroleum Ministry so that companies could bid on CBM blocks. However, now the Coal Ministry is beginning to deviate from the contracts, setting up coal mining production in the same blocks where CBM drilling is being carried out. The contracts, Modi points out, are very clear regarding the fact that the government does not have the authority to give permission for coal mining in CBM blocks, as carrying out both at the same time will hinder CBM production and is a potential environmental hazard.

Prashant Modi also adds that in other overseas locations where the two operations are carried out simultaneously, there are two stipulations; firstly, the simultaneous operations are planned before work commences, so that they can both be done safely and efficiently. Secondly, only one company carries out both operations – again, this is primarily for safety reasons.

However, even when carefully planned for Prashant Modi does not believe that coal mining and CBM production should be brought together – he argues that CBM should be done first, so that when the mining is then carried out, the risk of gas explosions and toxicity for mine workers will be dramatically reduced and even eliminated, in some cases. Ensuring that CBM production is completed before coal mining also has environmental benefits, as less methane is accidentally released into the atmosphere when mining begins.

According to Prashant Modi, it is the responsibility of the Petroleum Ministry to ensure that CBM blocks are not interfered with by coal mining operations. India has the third largest coal bed methane reserves in the world, and it is important for the economic future of the country that this energy source is protected.

Prashant Modi discusses the benefits of CBM for coal mining

Prashant Modi - Coal miningCoal mining by Prashant Modi

Prashant Modi, CEO of Great Eastern Energy, says that the government’s policy on coal bed methane is quite encouraging in its simplicity, based primarily on royalty contracts. However, Modi believes that more initiatives will be needed in order to accelerate the pace of production of CBM.

Some of the current policies which, Modi says, are applicable to CBM are almost exactly the same as those for traditional oil and gas, in that they are purely theoretical. Because of this, Prashant Modi says that what really need to be done is to use the practices from CBM producers in Australia, Canada and the USA as examples, and alter the existing CBM policies in India so that they reflect these countries’ policies, which have already proven to be successful.

Overall though, Prashant Modi says that he is relatively happy with the government’s CBM policies, and its enthusiasm for this energy source. Once CBM production is in full swing, Modi days, it will not only serve as a cleaner source of energy for India, but will also make the process of mining safer, as CBM production obviously draws the methane out of the mines. In China, several thousand people die each, as the result of explosions caused by methane gas, despite expensive ventilation systems being used in the mines. These ventilation systems, Prashant Modi says, are also supplemented with a degasification system, made up of gas pipelines and boreholes, all of which could be eliminated if CBM production were carried out before mining.

There are, according to Prashant Modi, two main benefits to carrying out CBM before mining; firstly, as mentioned previously, there will be little or no risk of explosions and subsequent fatalities. Secondly, when methane escapes into the atmosphere during mining, in its raw state, it is approximately twenty times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. However, if this methane is extracted before mining is carried out, the gas will not enter the atmosphere and will instead be manufactured and used as a clean fuel, thus preventing environmental pollution.

Prashant Modi – Challenges GEECL has overcome

Prashant Modi - Great Eastern EnergyCEO of Great Eastern Energy by Prashant Modi

Whilst CBM drilling has become a resounding success in the last five years, Prashant Modi explains that it has not been smooth sailing for his company, Great Eastern Energy Corporation, as there was a steep learning curve and quite a few serious challenges which had to be dealt with. In this article, Modi describes some of the main issues which GEECL met with during their journey to becoming one of India’s primary CBM drilling companies.

With no precedence for the drilling of coal bed methane in India, Prashant Modi says that all of the inevitable technology issues had to be solved by Great Eastern Energy Corporation. Today, Modi explains that they only use equipment made by Australian and American manufacturers, as these are the best in the CBM industry. However, this technology doesn’t come cheap, and one of the primary reasons for GEECL’s success, Prashant Modi says, has been its willingness to invest in this essential technology, when other energy companies chose not to.

Another key challenge has been the heterogeneous nature of coal; Prashant Modi says that their company may find gas in one coal seam, yet discover no gas just three or four hundred metres away.  Modi gives the example of the forty wells which were dug to the north of the River Damodar; just a couple of hundred metres, to the south of the river, the coal block held virtually no gas.

Reaching out to potential consumers and creating a demand for coal bed methane has also proven to be difficult. The vast majority of the CBM blocks in India, including those in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha, are located in areas where there are no existing networks of pipelines. Most trunk pipelines, Prashant Modi says, are situated in Western India are of no use to producers of CBM. According to Modi, the only way in which a CBM producer could sell gas, is through investing their own money into the development of a pipeline network, which is precisely what GEECL has done, digging more than eighty kilometres of pipeline so as to be able to provide its customers with the gas they need.

Is natural gas a safe fossil fuel? Prashant Modi discusses

Coal, one of the fossil fuels.

Coal, one of the fossil fuels. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) – Prashant Modi

There’s no doubt that natural gas is one of the most eco-friendly fossil fuels. However, much like with every other energy source, its advantages and disadvantages are often the subject of debate amongst environmentalists, economists and energy tycoons. Here, Prashant Modi takes a closer look at its benefits and its shortcomings, as well as possible solutions to the latter.

Natural gas is made up primarily of methane and is the world’s lightest hydrocarbon. It’s also colourless and odourless. When burned, this fossil fuel produces huge quantities of energy which can be used for both industrial and domestic purposes, including the generating of electricity, heating and cooking. Additionally, Prashant Modi says that its one of the most economical fuels to produce and to transport.

This gas is often praised as one of the cleanest energy alternatives; the burning of it releases less pollutants than any other fuel. It emits relatively low levels of emissions such as sulphur, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, particularly in comparison to coal, and doesn’t produce any particulates such as ash which can cause health problems. Whilst it’s certainly not as clean as other energy sources such as solar or wind, and is not renewable, Prashant Modi says that its abundance, affordability and straightforward production makes it one of the most popular fossil fuels available.

But there are some critics of natural gas who say that it isn’t quite as clean as it initially appears, as some scientists have theorised that methane escapes from pipelines and wells into the atmosphere. However Prashant Modi says that there is a middle ground between these two opinions. Whilst it is true that the transportation and production of natural gas presents environmental risks, much research is being done into ways to minimise these dangers.

A liquefied natural gas tanker arrives in Bost...For instance, according to Prashant Modi, a number of energy companies are now using LNG (Liquefied natural gas), which provides them with a way to both store and transport natural gas economically, without the need for laying pipelines. Natural gas can be transformed into LNG by cooling it, and removing many of the other compounds which are present along with the methane. LNG takes up far less space than this fossil fuel in its gaseous form, and is thought to be safer and more eco-friendly.