Methane drive

By Maureen Nandini Mitra
Published: Friday 15 August 2008

New fuel for Kolkata vehicles

kolkata may soon become the first city in India to have vehicles running on methane if a deal between Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ongc), a private gas distribution company, and the West Bengal government goes through.

ongc and Calcutta Compressions and Liquefaction Engineering, a Kolkata-based company, signed a memorandum of understanding on July 10 for distribution of coal bed methane (cbm) in Kolkata and adjoining areas starting January 2009. Calcutta Compressions is working on a distribution and pricing deal with the state government.

cbm is a natural gas found in coal beds that can be used for domestic, commercial and industrial purposes and even for generating electricity. In recent decades it has become an important source of clean energy in the West.Removing methane from underground coal mines also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions since methane's global warming potential is 21 times higher than that of carbon dioxide. Experts say India has enough recoverable sources of cbm for its extraction and commercial use to be viable.

ongc will source the gas from two cbm blocks in Jharkhand's Jharia coal mines where it is currently focusing its exploratory efforts. ongc officials say the company will extract about 50,000 cubic metres of cbm per day from these blocks to start with. Jharkhand has an estimated 23 million cubic metres of recoverable cmb.

Calcutta Compressions is setting up a compression unit at Parbatpur in Jharia. With a Rs 450-crore investment plan for the project, it would initially transport the gas, filled in cylinders, to Kolkata where it would be sold at specially installed pumps, said Kingshuk Ghosal, co-founder and director (technical) of Calcutta Compressions. The idea is to first sell it to taxis and auto-rickshaws and eventually to buses.

The price of cbm would be negligible compared to petrol and 30-35 per cent less than lpg, said Ghosal.

Calcutta Compressions will also tie up with Greater Calcutta Gas Supply Corporation, a state-owned gas distribution firm which owns a network of pipelines in and around Kolkata.

The project comes close to the Calcutta High Court's ruling making it compulsory for auto-rickshaws to switch to lpg or cng by March 31 next year.

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