Envoy makes ‘detailed and expansive presentations' on oil and gas markets

India and the U.S., on Tuesday, held talks on weaning New Delhi away from dependence on Iranian oil and while both sides stated their known positions on the issue, one positive outcome of the talks, which were wide ranging in nature and not focussed just on Iran, was the possibility of India importing shale gas in liquefied form from the U.S.

Indian officials, during their meeting with U.S. Special Envoy on Energy Carlos Pascual, explained the long-term projections of India's energy needs, including key suppliers of oil and natural gas and possible external energy sources in Africa, North America and Southeast Asia.

India is, at present, importing crude oil from 30 countries spread across different continents, the U.S. team was told. From the trend of discussions, officials said the possibility of the U.S. exporting shale gas to India should be seen positively.

Desperate to corner Iran in concert with other countries, the U.S. has been seeking sharp reduction in Indian oil purchases from Iran.

The issue was highlighted by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton right from the moment she landed in Kolkata last week on her way to Delhi where she dwelt on it during her interactions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna.

India has cut back on oil purchases from Iran but does not admit it was under U.S. pressure. Instead, it argues that displacement of Iran from its position as India's number two supplier of oil was due to a commercial decision by its refineries.

In response to U.S. cajoling, India feels some customers who had moved to alternate sources of oil have not found the experience very encouraging. But because of U.S. insistence during Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai's visit to Washington in February this year, it was agreed to have the envoy come over to discuss this issue as well as some others that are of acute long-term interest for India.

In his interaction with the multi-Ministry delegation drawn from the Ministry of External Affairs, Petroleum and Natural Gas and Non-Conventional Energy Sources, Mr. Pascaul made “detailed and expansive presentations” on the two main agenda items — oil and gas markets, including impact of LNG and of shale gas on the integration of gas markets. His team also made presentations on the demand, supply and consumption pattern projections, including discoveries off the coast of East Africa.

Mr. Pascaul will visit Mumbai on Wednesday for talks with ONGC and financial institutions on the Iran issue as well as shale gas projections.

Besides shale gas, which some experts say could send the price of natural gas plummeting, India was also keen on the discoveries made or being made on the east coast of Africa — offshore gas deposits in Mozambique, indication of huge deposits offshore in Tanzania and on land in Kenya.

This could indicate a vast area in the Indian Ocean could contain hydrocarbons and India would like this knowledge to cover the northern portion of the Indian Ocean as well.

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