Wednesday, 10 August 2011

DRDO to set up second missile testing facility at Machilipatnam: Oil explorers say it will affect Krishna-Godavari basin

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 9: The proposed integrated testing range (ITR) in
Machilipatnam will reduce India's exclusive economic zone on Eastern
offshore by almost three-fourth from 6.40 lakh sq km to 1.82 lakh sq km.

If the Defence Research and Development Organisation goes ahead with its
proposal to set up the country's second ITR in Krishna district to test long
range missiles of Agni series, the premier defence research body will get
control of about 4.58 lakh sq km of India's EEZ in the Bay of Bengal and the
Indian Ocean. It is this EEZ which holds the potential for oil and natural gas
exploration. Of this, the K-G basis spreads over an area of about 50,000 sq
km.

According to Venkat Kameshwar of SNP Infra Research, "two of the four
blocks of Krishna-Godavari basin come under the proposed missile testing
range. As a result, ONGC might have to give up two of its blocks - KG OSN-
2009/1 and 2 in which it holds 80 per cent and 90 per cent stakes,
respectively. Andhra Pradesh Gas Infrastructure Corporation owns 10 per
cent in each block. Thus the production of gas and oil would be affected."

Though Machilipatnam is far away from the oil and natural gas exploration
sites in K-G basin, the DRDO will take under its control a vast expanse of
area for security reasons. This brings a part of the K-G basin under DRDO's
control.

"Every testing range has a coverage area in which nothing is allowed and is
under complete authority of DRDO given the secrecy involved. Level 5
clearance is required to enter these centres," Venkat said adding that the K-G
basin’s two blocks once functional would emit gas and other pollutants,
which will impact the testing capabilities of the missile centre.

Moreover, the DRDO will not allow any human movement near the range,
which spreads over a large area, both on sea and land side.

The K-G basin contains as much as 640 mmt (million metric tonnes) of oil
and oil equivalent gas reserves including deep water areas. Under the New
Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP), as many as 92 new oil and gas
discoveries have been made including giant gas field of Eastern offshore,
called D6. This D6 field in KG deep water is contributing about 42 per cent
of the country’s gas production, studies by SNP Infra Research point out.

Along with three other fields - Ravva, PY-1 and PY-3 - KG-D6 has been
producing about 57,000 barrels of oil and 61 mmscm (million metric
standard cubic metres) of gas per day.

The importance of K-G basin can be gauged from the fact that the resources
in Mumbai High, which has been serving the nation for the last four decades,
are depleting fast. The future needs of the country will largely be met by K-G
basin.

According to sources, the DRDO has objected to D6 field as it falls fully
under the proposed ITR zone. It has also reportedly sought reduction of D7
towards the sea. Other blocks like D3, D4 and D5 will also be affected if the
DRDO has its say.

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