Updated: August 6, 2019 7:50:38 pm
Three years after they failed to float a gas-based urea fertiliser plant in Tripura, ONGC has now worked out an alternative business model to use its 0.4 mmscmd small gas deposit lying defunct at Khubal of Tripura’s North district by setting up the state’s first gas-based tea processing plant and a CNG, PNG corridor through Tripura.
ONGC started drilling in Tripura way back in 1962. They first struck gas in 1986 at Baramura Hills in the state and steadily increased exploration activities ever since. The agency now supplies gas to different thermal power plants, including NEEPCO, ONGC Tripura Power Company etc. having a cumulative power generation potential of 1,500 MW.
The apex nationalised oil and gas exploration agency planned to set up Rs 5,000 crore gas-based Urea fertiliser plant in Khubal area of North Tripura district a few years back. An agreement was signed with Rajasthan-based Chambal Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd. But in 2016, gas reserves were found insufficient for the project to take off.
Now, the national exploration agency has worked out a plan to turn the tables for its defunct mini gas deposit by partnering with a number of agencies to put the reserves to use.
“We are holding awareness programme for Khubal gas deposit. ONGC is targeting to build Tripura as a state of gas-based industry. We hope to build a 340 km-long CNG, PNG corridor from Dharmanagar to Sabroom. We have discussed with the state government in this regard. 0.4 mmscmd gas can be explored from Khubal deposit. We have called our prospective consumers who can set up industries there,” ONGC Tripura Asset Manager OP Singh told indianexpress.com.
Singh also said his officials would be meeting prospective consumers to discuss about the anticipation of supplies. These customers, include tea estates, tiles industrialists and the Tripura Natural Gas Corporation Limited (TNGCL) – Tripura’s own PSU for locomotive and cooking gas distribution.
Principal Secretary of Tripura Government Sashi Ranjan said the entire volume of gas discovered at Khubal deposit has already been committed to different interest parties.
Plans are to set up a statewide CNG, PNG supply corridor straight from North Tripura to the southernmost tip of the state, bordering with Bangladesh.
On why the ambitious gas-based Urea fertiliser plant didn’t take off three years back, the ONGC official said sufficient gas reserves were not found on site.
“A gas-based Urea fertiliser plant requires 1.5-2 mmscmd gas deposit. We have only 0.4 mmscmd gas at Khubal. So, the supplies were not sufficient,” he told this publication.
Meanwhile, as final discussions are still underway, sources in ONGC said Khubal deposit would supply gas to Manuvalley Tea Estate at Dharmanagar of North Tripura to set up the state’s first gas-based tea processing unit.
Manuvalley, which is owned by Luxmi Group, is one of the largest producers of tea in Tripura and is a major exporter of orthodox and green tea from the state. Established in 1917, Manuvalley tea estate is one of the oldest tea houses of Tripura. It produces approximately 40,00,000 kg made tea every year and has been using coal for tea processing so far.
“We were in touch with ONGC for converting tea processing from coal to gas-based system since 2014. Coal supplies from Meghalaya have resumed after a brief suspension, albeit at a much higher price. So, if we get gas supplies for green leaf drying and tea processing, it will be an eco-friendly and a much better fuel alternative,” Manuvalley Tea Estate Commercial Manager Prabir Dey said.
Nearly 2,000 small tea growers in North Tripura district supply their produce to Manuvalley tea estate for processing. With a gas-based boiler and burner, processing would be faster, efficient and eco-friendly.
Tea Board India Assistant Director Diganta Barman said gas-based tea processing is technically more efficient and cleaner.
The tea industry in Tripura is over 100-years-old. It started with Hiracherra tea estate in Unakoti district back in 1913. But tea processing in the state was interrupted after mining in Meghalaya was stopped by orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against ‘rat hole’ mining in April 2014. A few initiatives of manufacturing biomass briquettes were taken to replace coal since 2017 but major breakthrough in the field is still awaited, which makes natural gas the next best alternative to a cheaper and cleaner fuel for tea industry.
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