Hydrocarbons major Oil India Limited (OIL) on Monday began drilling operations at it’s Aibawk 1 well, about 35 kms from Aizawl, an action that marks the PSU’s first major activity in a bid to tap into the North-Eastern state’s hydrocarbon reserves.
ONGC, the other major oil PSU, has had a head-start in the state’s northern areas and has already found an estimated 2.2 billion cubic metres of natural gas reserves near Meidum village. The company is currently preparing for hydro-fracturing processes to extract the reserves, according to H L Mawia, director of Geology and Mineral Resources in the Mizoram government.
At a ceremony to mark the beginning of drilling operations, Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla called the state’s huge hydrocarbon reserves as “God’s gift for his chosen people’s prosperity,” and recalled how the search for oil began in the state in the late 1980s.
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He, however admitted there has been infrastructural bottlenecks within and near the state such as roads that are unable to host vehicles that carry heavy machinery and the absence of rail services.
Ajay Borthakur, head of OIL’s Geosciences division, said work at putting up a rig at Aibawk 1 began in 2007 and that it could not have been done faster because of these logistics problems. With no railway line into Mizoram, Borthakur said, “more than 400 trucks” had to carry material needed to build the rig.
OIL General Manager (North East Frontier) Rahul Dasgupta said the current drilling operation has a target depth of 4500 metres and will likely drill for at least two months. The rig would then be moved to other wells at Keifang, then to Thenzawl and later to Phulmawi.
OIL currently has a license to operate in 3213 sq kms in central Mizoram, while ONGC has sway over 4009 sq.kms. License to operate in a third oil block covering 3619 sq kms in southern Mizoram was earlier held by a conglomerate led by Reliance but has been terminated and a new global tender likely to be floated soon.