Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday sounded optimistic about India meeting its increasing energy requirement, pointing out that the discovery of shale gas in the U.S. had brought about a “sea change” in the situation.

India’s energy needs may increase three to four times within the next 20 years and it is negotiating with the U.S. on importing large quantities of shale gas. With sanctions on Iran likely to ease, another option of importing gas may open up in the coming years.

The Prime Minister was inaugurating the 8th Asia Gas Partnership Summit during which he dedicated GAIL India Ltd.’s 1,000-km-long Dabhol-Bangalore gas pipeline to the nation. The pipeline connects South India to the national gas grid for the first time.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh will be in the U.S. this month, with shale gas imports and technology transfer among the top issues on her.

The U.S. is undergoing a major energy boom due to recent technological breakthroughs in drilling for natural gas trapped in sedimentary rocks. But it isn’t the only nation with shale gas reserves and this option is catching on elsewhere also. At the same time, shale gas drilling has raised environmental concerns due to methane gas emissions, heavy use of water and contamination of aquifers.

The Prime Minister said domestic exploration and acquisition of assets abroad were two sides of India’s quest for stepping up energy supplies. “India is progressively pursuing other options to achieve energy security. One of these is the acquisition of energy assets in other countries which will help us in securing new supplies of energy and in the acquisition of the latest technological knowhow.”

“To bridge the supply and demand gap, we are encouraging domestic and global companies to explore our onshore and offshore regions,” he added while assuring investors of a stable and enabling policy environment for energy exploration.

Muhammetnur Halylov, the Minister for Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan, which could be another source of gas supply, was present on the occasion.

India is working on a pipeline project from Turkmenistan that will pass through Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the first time when huge energy reserves of Central Asia will be going toward the south instead of the west and the east.

Minister for Petroleum & Natural Gas M. Veerappa Moily pointed out that future accretion to demand would be much more in countries such as India and therefore it must plan for more pipelines. The government, he said, planned to more than double India’s pipeline length from the current 15,000 km.

The two-day conference saw participation from the International Energy Agency, the International Gas Union, BG, Carrizo Oil & Gas, PetroChina, GDF Suez, Shell, Total Gas & Power and Natural Gas Fenosa of Spain, besides others.