Oil exploration firm Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) Saturday said it has stumbled upon a reserve of uranium while carrying out exploration work in an oilfield in Assam.
“Uranium traces were detected during examination of logs of the Borholla oilfield. Now a joint study is on with the Uranium Corporation to take this entire process forward,” said A.K. Hazarika, director of ONGC’s onshore operations. The oilfield is about 360 km east of Guwahati. There are more than 20 wells in the Borholla oilfield, apart from several abandoned wells.
With an estimated Rs.5 billion being sanctioned to carry out research and development and pilots for renewable and alternate energy, the two state-run firms have begun examining logs of over 900 oil and gas wells, mainly in Assam, to look for uranium reserves.
“Now the process is on to ascertain and examine all the wells in Borholla for uranium reserves,” Hazarika told reporters here.
This is the first time that uranium traces have been found in an Assam oilfield although other north-eastern states like Meghalaya have rich reserves.
“According to preliminary findings, the uranium reserves could be huge in this area,” another senior ONGC official said.
Surveys conducted by the atomic energy department indicate there could be up to 10,000 tonnes of uranium in and around Domiasiat, about 150 km west of Meghalaya state capital Shillong, the area considered to have the largest sandstone-type deposits in the country.
Meghalaya’s uranium ore reserves are spread over a mountainous terrain in deposits varying from eight to 47 metres underground.
However, Uranium Corp was forced to stop exploration work there in the mid-1990s following protests from villagers. Even now, it has not been able to carry out mining in the state.
Spurred by the recent findings, ONGC is now contemplating setting up a nuclear power plant if its current collaboration with Uranium Corp results in the discovery of uranium in Assam.
ONGC Assam’s oil production is now about 1.2 million tonnes annually.
Assam has over 1.3 billion tonnes of crude oil and 156 billion cubic metres of natural gas reserves, of which about an estimated 58 percent is yet to be explored. India produces about 30 million tonnes of crude oil annually, with Assam accounting for about five million tonnes.
Apart from ONGC, Oil India Ltd (OIL) is the other major exploration firm operating in the north-eastern state.
ONGC also has oil and gas exploration and production operations in countries such as Russia, Vietnam and Sudan.