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A timely exposition on petroleum

THE WORLD OF PETROLEUM B G Deshpande Publisher: Wiley Eastern Ltd, India Price: Rs 250

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Big investment: An oil-drillin INDIA'S interest in petroleum has grown rapidly. Understandably so, because the investments made are large and the returns fair, and could be even more attractive if we priced it properly. But, despite the growing interest in the mechanics of petroleum, it is virtually impossible to find a book that is both readable and explains cogently what petroleum is, the science and technology utilised in its discovery and the inherent uncertainties in the endeavour. So, this book by distinguished geoscientist B G Deshpande, which is quite the best book on petroleum published in recent years, comes at an opportune time.

Deshpande takes us through details of the physical characteristics of petroleum -- curiously enough, this accounts for almost 70 per cent of the book, which is the same percentage as the total annual investment of the petroleum industry in this area of activity. He summarises succinctly petroleum geology; the origins of petroleum (including theories of the inorganic origin of certain petroleum discoveries); the significant geological, geophysical, geochemical and geobotanical techniques used in the search for petroleum; different types of drilling rigs and their characteristics; drilling operations and programmes; well surveys, studies and estimation of reserves -- in brief, every aspect of petroleum exploration and production sciences and technology.

Specially noteworthy is how well Deshpande has covered virtually all the latest scientific and technological advances in this field, so much so that if Deshpande had interlaced his exposition with successful (and unsuccessful) techniques applied in discoveries made in the country and even ventured into future prospects for the discovery of petroleum in different parts of the country, this part of the book would have been of even greater interest to domestic readers. Contrasted with this relatively extensive exposition of all the main aspects of petroleum exploration and production, the chapters on refining and petrochemicals seem too brief. There is no mention of distribution and marketing in the petroleum industry. This is somewhat curious when Deshpande has commented, albeit much too briefly, on the potential for "improved efficiency of machines and processes" that leads to conservation of petroleum.

Though Deshpande has also attempted briefly to cover the future of the petroleum industry, he does better in his description of environmental pollution in the many different operations in this industry, though his work is by no means exhaustive.

Though excessive typographical errors detract from the book's readability, it definitely is compulsory reading for all journalists who write on petroleum and those who work in the petroleum industry, especially those who need to know a great deal more about exploration and production of petroleum.

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