India's biggest energy explorer Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has discovered the country's first shale gas reserve at Durgapur in Burdwan district of West Bengal.
The gas reserve - spread over 12,000 square km in the Durgapur-Ranigunj area - is the world's third shale gas find. Until now shale gas reserves have been found only in the US and Canada.
Shale gas is natural gas trapped within layers of shale rock. The discovery was the result of efforts scientists at Dehradun's Keshava Deva Malviya Institute of Petroleum Exploration.
"It is cent per cent natural gas and can be utilised as cooking gas and for other commercial uses," said PK Mahato, a scientist at the institute.
He claimed the block found has reserves that could last up to 50 years, depending on the quantity of exploration.
"This is significant find, especially when similar explorations in countries like China and Japan have not had success," he said.
But it might be a while before this gas reaches end users.
"It will all depend on the policy of the government. Also commercial exploration will be allocated through bidding and I do not think that the bidding process will start before the end of 2011," Mahato said.
ONGC ventured into shale gas exploration in September last year as part of its pilot project in Durgapur.
According to ONGC estimates, India's shale gas reserves range between 600 and 2,000 trillion cubic feet.