Natural gas as the bridge fuel in India
India is a key member of the international community in the efforts to transit to a sustainable, low-carbon emission confronting climate change, human health improvisation, and fostering prosperity.
Also, India happens to be the world’s fourth largest consumer of energy following the US, China and Russia. Dependence on oil is high as the country is the third largest oil importer globally, shipping in around 80% of the crude oil it consumes. Meanwhile, the indigenous oil output has remained stagnant for years and the demand for energy is increasing exponentially, due to rapid economic growth.
India needs more than renewables to meet rising demand and in such a situation, the thrust on natural gas appears to be judicious. Gas-based power stations have no particulate emissions and much lower NOx emissions. They can achieve 20 parts per million (PPM) nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels whereas coal-based power stations have no standards; they emit between 100 PPM and 300 PPM.
Focus on generating energy from renewables is an important step to diversify the supply base to reach every household in remotest location and reduce the dependence on coal based units. Intrinsically, the ministry announced plans to add 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. This includes 100 GW of solar at the cost of $ 100 billion, 60 GW of wind energy, 10 GW in bio-fuel plants and the remaining in small hydel. However, achieving this tall order is a far cry due to various operational complexities involved.
Meanwhile, it is absolutely necessary to increase the share of natural gas in the primary energy mix from about 9% in 2014 to 20% by 2030 or even more, to catch up with the incremental demand for power. Simultaneously reducing the dependence on oil imports is also necessary. Factors such as greater exploration efforts under the New Exploration Licensing Policy, the commissioning of liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals on the western coast, upcoming LNG terminals and the government’s initiatives on a nation-wide natural gas pipeline grid are factors that are likely to propel natural gas supplies.
Also, the fact cannot be ignored that natural gas has now become the preferred fuel for fertilizers, petrochemicals and has even made greater inroads into power generation.
Fossil fuels comes with a rider – adverse health impacts. Outdoor air pollution results in more deaths than malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. The burning from thermal power station releases toxic particulates attributable to these premature deaths.
It is imperative that increasing natural gas supplies has the potential to deliver a multitude of benefits – lower energy costs, improved energy security, reduced air pollution and lower carbon intensive electricity supply. Isn’t it a prudence choice to encourage and promote natural gas for domestic and commercial purposes, thereby negating the impact of rising air pollution levels on human health?