New Delhi: According to the report, a proposed change to the forest conservation law in India is expected to have a positive impact on the country’s oil and gas exploration sector. The amendment aims to streamline the process of conducting seismic surveys in forest lands, thereby granting explorers quicker access to vast forest areas for surveys without the need for cumbersome permits.
The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, introduced by the government in March, seeks to exempt certain categories of land from the current forest conservation law and expand the range of activities that can be carried out on forest land. The proposed change also aims to eliminate the classification of seismic surveys as non-forest activities. Seismic surveys are essential in identifying potential drilling locations by gathering data from large areas and analyzing them to determine suitable sites. However, drilling will still require permits from the forest department.
By easing the restrictions on seismic surveys in forest lands, the government can accelerate the process of granting exploration permits for oil and gas resources. In Category-II basins such as Saurashtra, Kutch, Vindhyan, and Mahanadi, which encompass approximately 0.1 million square kilometres of forests or restricted areas, it is estimated that around 230 million metric tonnes of oil equivalent (MMToe) of hydrocarbon resources can be targeted.
Category-II basins refer to areas expected to have hydrocarbon resources but have not yet been commercially exploited. On the other hand, Category-III basins, which can also be opened up for exploration, encompass around 0.18 million square kilometres of restricted areas with a potential hydrocarbon resource of approximately 200 MMToe. These measures aim to expand exploration activities and increase the chances of significant discoveries and higher oil output in India.
In recent years, the government has implemented various reforms to enhance exploration opportunities in the country. The opening of over 98 per cent of previously restricted areas, primarily due to security reasons, has created new possibilities for exploration. Rajesh Kumar Srivastava, an advisor to the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH), has highlighted that the proposed amendment will facilitate the translation of estimated hydrocarbon resources into producible volumes by conducting scientific surveys in defined forest areas more efficiently.
Seismic surveys serve as the initial step for explorers to gather evidence of viable hydrocarbon resources underground. Subsequently, drilling wells enables explorers to confirm the existence of these resources and assess their commercial viability.