Oil and gas scenario in Manipur

Kh Dilip Singh
Eastern margin of Manipur, also known as Ophiolite Belt in geology, extending from Jessami (Ukhrul District) in the north to Moreh (Tengnoupal District) in the south is rich in metallic and non-metallic minerals like limestone, chromite, PGE (Platinum Group of Elements like platinum, nickel, vanadium, etc.). Western margin of Manipur including portions of the districts of Tamenglong, Jiribam, Churachandpur and Pherzawl is reportedly rich in hydrocarbon (oil and gas) and falls under Assam-Arakan Basin. Studies have shown that prospect of having a good reserve of gas is very high in the region.
1. Oil and gas is a Central subject. Therefore, their exploration and production is carried out through the Directorate General of Hydrocarbon (DGH), Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Govt. of India through competitive bidding.
2. Central and private agencies who had carried out exploration for oil and gas in the State of Manipur included ONGC, Oil India Ltd., Tullow India and Jubilant Energy. A brief of their works are as under :-
(a) Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd.(ONGC) and Tullow India Operations Ltd : The Directorate General of Hydrocarbon, GoI awarded an exploration block AA-ONJ/2 to the consortium comprising of Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. (ONGC) and Tullow India Operations Limited under Joint Venture Exploration Programme- 1995 belonging to parts of Assam, Mizoram and Manipur. Total exploration area comprised of 1277 sq.km out of which 220 sq. km was in Manipur falling under Jiribam and Churachnadpur districts. However, no exploration work was carried out in portions of Manipur and the area was relinquished w.e.f. 1/7/2014.
(b) Exploration of Oil and Gas by Jubilant Energy, Noida : M/S. Jubilant Energy, Noida was granted Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) on 15-11-2010 in a total area of 3,957 km2 in Manipur  for exploration of oil and gas in two blocks (in the districts of Pherzawl, Churachandpur, Tamenglong and Jiribam) as under:
(1) AA-ONN-2009/1 - 2217 km2
(2) AA-ONN-2009/2 - 1740 km2
Works Completed
Some of the works completed are;
· Risk assessment and Demography Survey
· Pre-seismic EIA studies
· Second phase Geological and Stratigraphic Mapping
· 418 LKM survey
· 2D seismic data acquisition
· 5273 LKM Airborne Survey
· Extensive survey and identification of 30 drill sites (17 in Block- I and 13 in Block – II)
The area reportedly has a very high potential for striking gas reserve (not oil). In order to confirm its availability, the quality and quantity, the company proposed to carry out deep drilling involving heavy and big machines.  During the first two-three years the company is learnt to have invested over Rs 100 crore.
Logistic Problems
Then existing roads and bridges were not capable of transporting exploratory drilling equipments. There was no bridge in Tipaimukh to mobilise from Jiribam.
Issues for Clearances
(i) M/S. Jubilant Energy had applied for grant of Environmental Clearances (EC) in September, 2011. They had also applied for land acquisition at Parbung (Block-I) and Oinamlong and Nungba (Block-II) in July, 2011. The land being forest area, diversion was needed to be able to use for non-forest purposes. Forest diversion was reportedly applied in 2012. However, no approval could be obtained. As per existing rules, EC is to be issued only after receiving forest land diversion.
(ii) Local problems : Failure to obtain EC and acquisition of land, then prevailing logistic problems coupled with local issues, the Company was forced to relinquish the blocks in February, 2017.  
(c) National Seismic Survey Programme of the Govt. of India : As part of National programme to identify potential areas of hydrocarbon bearing rocks in the country, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas had taken up the National Seismic Survey Programme throughout the country. In respect of Manipur, the work was entrusted to M/S. Oil India Ltd. (OIL).
The scope of work included acquisition of Regional 2D Seismic Data and it was to cover 870 LKM in the State. However, only 4.74 km lines could be completed. As part of the work, OIL carried out some controlled blasting at some selected locations at a depth of about 15-20 meter and the reflected waves were recorded. Analysis of the reflected waves gives a picture of the nature and a rough structure of rocks beneath the surface. This will help in interpretation of the presence of favorable oil and gas bearing rock structure and formations, if any. OIL started the works from Jiribam towards Khaidem Village (near Khumbong in Imphal West) via Tamenglong.
Obstruction from the local people/NGOs
The local people were afraid that blasting carried out by OIL might disturb the structures around the blasting sites and cause an irreparable environmental pollution. They were also apprehensive that people from outside the State were going to take away our wealth leaving an empty coffer for the local people.  
Causes of the obstruction
The above problems appeared to be due to lack of awareness among the people, political interference or interest of some NGOs.  It is not that no attempt was made to give awareness to the local population of the then ongoing operations. Public hearings had been organized in various areas by the respective companies in association with local administration and Manipur Pollution Control Board. Whereas the local population generally welcomed the exploration, it was some civil societies who were against such activities.  
Grant of Petroleum Exploration Licences
Sedimentary Basins of India are classified into three categories; Category-I, II and III Basins respectively. Basins which have proven hydrocarbon resources with established commercial production have been categories as Category-I Basin and areas of Manipur belong to Category-I Basin.
Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) is granted by the concerned State Government after due approval of the Government of India through competitive bidding.
(To be contd)