To frac or not to frac: Shale gas in India - prospects and risks

With a rapidly growing economy and a still increasing population, India’s energy production and consumption will need to increase several times in the next decades in order to meet human development needs. The challenge for India is how to meet this energy demand equitably, affordably and sustainably.

Shale gas development took place on a large scale especially in the U.S. In fact, before the recent emergency of a low energy price trend that is unlikely to last for long, shale gas was about to reverse the role of the U.S. as the world’s largest energy importer. However, the technological and commercial success story of shale gas has come with major ecological problems and risks, especially as regards the use and pollution of water. Popular protests against fracking have become widespread in the U.S. and Europe.

While in India, the present shale gas resource is not very high. It is about 100 Trillion Cubic Feet (TCF), which is sufficient to meet India’s gas demand at the current level for about 25 years. Also, the shale gas basins in India are not as prolific as those in the US. Shale gas extraction therefore will be difficult and more expensive in India compared to the US. Nevertheless, considering the desperate natural gas situation in the country, the government is looking to unlock this resource. However, there is a fear that large-scale development of shale gas could impact the environment and the lives and the livelihoods of communities.

In order to provide for a better understanding of the possibilities and risks involved in shale gas development, the India office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation commissioned this study. It analyses experiences with the technology, especially in the U.S., provides an overview about shale gas potentials in India, and points to environmental and social impacts and risks that the adoption of a shale gas strategy by a developing country such as India would imply.


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Date of Publication
April 2016
Heinrich Böll Foundation
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