Fossil Fuel Resources in India

Fossil Fuel Resources in India

This article deals with ‘Fossil Fuel Resources in India.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’, which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

Fossil Fuel Resources in India

Categories of Energy Sources

  • Conventional: Conventional energy sources refer to the traditional methods of generating power that has been widely used for many years—E.g., Coal, Petroleum etc.
  • Non-Conventional: Non-conventional sources of energy are energy resources that are not derived from traditional fossil fuels—E.g. Solar, Wind etc.

1. Coal

Types of Coal

1. Peat

  • It has the highest percentage of moisture & gives more smoke.
  • Carbon content is 40% (lowest).
  • It represents the very first stage of coal formation. 

2. Lignite

  • It is also known as Brown Coal and is superior to Peat.
  • Under pressure & heat, with time, Peat converts to lignite.
  • Carbon content is 40-60%.
  • In India, it is found in Neyveli (Tamil Nadu) (largest deposit), Palana (Rajasthan), and Lakhimpur (Assam).

3. Bituminous

  • It is also known as Black Coal.  
  • It is dense, compact & black in colour.
  • Carbon content is 60-80%.
  • Almost 80% of Indian Coal is Bituminous. 
  • It is found in Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal & Madhya Pradesh.

4. Anthracite

  • It is known as Hard Coal.
  • When buried deep, all moisture gets expelled & Anthracite coal is formed.
  • Carbon content is 80-90%.
  • It has a short flame & is the most expensive of all.
  • In India, Anthracite coal is found only in Jammu and Kashmir (Kalakot).

Distribution of Coal in the World

1. China

  • China has the largest reserves in the world (12%).
  • Overwhelming concentrations are found around 
    • Hwang Ho river basin, particularly in Shansi
    • Manchurian coal fields 
    • Shantung Hupei fields

2. USA

  • The USA has the second largest reserves in the world.
  • Main coal regions
    • Appalachian Region
    • Arkansas Rocky Region
    • Illinois 
    • Indiana

3. Australia

  • Australia has the fourth largest coal reserves, but they are substantially unexploited.
  • Main regions
    1. Queensland
    2. Tasmania
    3. New South Wales
    4. Victoria

4. Russia

  • Though coal reserves decreased after disintegration but have substantial reserves.
  • Main coal regions
    1. Pechora coal basin
    2. Kuznetsk region
    3. Moscow-Tula region

5. Ukraine

  • A substantial amount of coal reserves are found in Donetsk Basin.

6. Germany

  • Germany is the largest coal producer in mainland Europe. 
  • Main coal regions
    1. Ruhr Valley
    2. Saxony 
    3. Saar Basin

7. South Africa

  • The main coal regions in South Africa include Transvaal, Cape Province, and New Castle.  

Indian Coal

  • India has the third largest coal reserves in the world, but coal is of medium quality.
  • India coal was not formed in the Carboniferous period. (Hence, it is not Anthracite)
  • Most of the Indian Coal was formed in the Gondwana period. Hence, approx. 80% of Indian coal is Bituminous and non-coking grade.
  • Since Indian Coal is of non-coking grade, it can’t be used as a reducing agent in metallurgical processes. Hence, coking coal is imported 
  • Indian coal has low sulphur but high moisture. Thus it produces more smoke.

Formation of Indian Coal

Coal formation spans millions of years, involving the accumulation and transformation of organic matter. Globally, the formation of coal can be traced back to Carboniferous Period. But in India, most of the coal is from the Gondwana period. Coal formation begins with the accumulation of plant material in swamps and marshes to form peat. As more layers of plant material accumulated, the weight of the overlying sediment and the pressure from the Earth’s crust compressed the peat, gradually transforming it into coal, in the process known as coalification.

In India, Coal occurs in the rock sequences of two geological ages, i.e. Gondwana and Tertiary deposits.

1. Gondwana Coal

  • It was formed 570-275 million years ago (due to in Damodar-Mahanadi Rift) 
  • Most of the coal reserves in India consist of Gondwana coal.
  • Gondwana coal is of Bituminous type.

2. Tertiary Coal

  • Tertiary coal belongs to the Oligocene period (15 to 60 million years ago).
  • 2% of coal reserves in India is of Tertiary coal
  • Tertiary coal has low carbon content, in the range of 40-60%.
  • The largest deposit of Tertiary coal is found in Neyveli in Tamil Nadu.

Indian Distribution

Coal distribution in India

1. Bituminous Coal

Jharkhand Damodar Valley (Bokaro, Dhanbad, Jharia, Giridih and Daltonganj)
Odisha Mahanadi Basin and Talcher Valley
West Bengal Extension of Damodar Valley in Raniganj and Barakar formations
Chhatisgarh Narmada and Son Rift Valley
Madhya Pradesh Chindwara and Jhilmil
Andhra Pradesh Singreni and Kotagudam Coal Field
Maharashtra Nagpur and Kampti Coal Field

2. Lignite Coal

Tamil Nadu Neyvelli
Rajasthan Palana
Gujarat Umarsar

3. Anthracite Coal

Only found in one place

Jammu and Kashmir Kalakot

Problems of Indian Coal 

  • India doesn’t has high-grade coking coal. Hence, India depends on imports to meet domestic requirements.
  • Regulatory challenges: A stricter regulatory framework for land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation, and environment management leads to a higher cost of compliance for access and extraction of coal.
  • Good & low-grade coal are found together in Indian mines. Mining companies do selective mining & extract good coal, leaving bad coal behind. Selective mining is wasteful.
  • India does open-cast mining—in contrast to underground mining worldwide. The open cast is cheaper but is associated with high pollution.
  • Deep mining techniques used in India are primitive, leading to high causalities.
  • Poor connectivity from coal mines to consumer locations via railways leads to a mismatch of demand and supply.
  • Mining is primarily done by PSUs (Coal India). Their efficiency is low.  
  • The poor financial state of DISCOMs: This has led to a financial challenge in the overall power sector. Several states, including Jharkhand and Maharashtra, have large outstanding dues to coal companies.

2. Petroleum

Petroleum is obtained from sedimentary rocks of Marine origin of the Tertiary period. 

Theory of Origin

  • The origin of Petroleum & Natural gas is considered to be organic. Marine Living Organisms (like fish and microscopic plants and animals) got buried under accumulated sediments of crude mud, silt & sand and underwent a chemical change to form crude oil and natural gas due to high pressure & heat after millions of years. It is the reason why oil is found in many seabed. 
  • The point to note is that where ever oil is found on land, that region must have been undersea in the geological history because that is the only way living organisms can be settled there and then pressurized to form oil. 
  • E.g. the Middle East has enormous oil reserves because of the same reason. From 500-100 million years ago (MYA), large portions of the modern-day Middle East were submerged under a large, now non-existent sea called the Tethys Sea. Rivers feeding this ancient ocean saturated it with nutrients, giving rise to massive numbers of microscopic animals. They died & fell to the bottom of the sea, which was pressurized to form oil.
Petroleum  - Process of Formation

Some History

  • The first oil well was constructed in the USA in 1859.
  • In India, Petroleum was first discovered at Margherita (upper Assam) in 1860 by Assam Railway & Trading Company & then in Digboi in 1869.
  • ONGC was established in 1956. Later, ONGC discovered oil in the Gulf of Khambat in 1961 & Bombay High in 1976.

Global Distribution

1. North America

USA Alaska and Rocky Mountain region
Canada Alberta province
Mexico Tampico and Taxpum region

2. South America

Venezuela Maracaibo Bay and Orinoco Basin
Columbia Maracaibo Bay
Argentina Patagonia Peninsula

3. Europe

Russia Volga-Caspian Region, Kamchatka & Shakalin Region and Ob-Lena Basin
Ukraine Dnieper and Crimea
UK North Sea

4. Asia

Saudi Arabia Ghawar, Abu Sarah and Safania
Iraq Kirkuk and Mosul
Iran Masjid-i-Suleiman, Naft-i-Shah and Lali
UAE Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah
Qatar Doha and Jebel
China Sinkiang, South China Bay & Bo Hai Bay
Indonesia Sumatra

5. Africa

Libya Gulf of Sidra
Algeria Edjile and Hassi Masaud
Nigeria Boguma and Bonny
Egypt Ras Gharib, Ras Matarma and Sinai peninsula.

Indian Distribution

States Mineral Rich Regions
Assam Digboi
Gujarat On Shore

Gandhar Oil Field
Aliya Bet
Rajasthan Barmer (exploited by Cairns)
Maharashtra Nilam Oil Field (Bombay High)
KG Basin Rawa Oil Field
Narimanam Oil Field

3. Natural Gas

  • Sedimentary rocks in which hydrocarbons are trapped often hold gas, which may be in association with crude oil or alone.
  • It consists primarily of methane, which is lighter than air & toxic. It requires air-tight tanks for storage & similarly, leakproof pipes or trucks for transport, raising capital costs.

Global Distribution

Global Reserves Global Production
Russia Russia
Iran USA
Saudi Arabia Canada
USA Netherlands
Nigeria Algeria
Venezuela Indonesia

Indian Distribution

  • In India, natural gas is found along with oil reserves. India does not have exclusive natural gas reserves. 
  • Oil & Natural gas Commission(ONGC) does the exploration of Natural Gas.
  • According to the estimate, the total Natural Gas reserve is about 450 billion cubic metres.
  • In India, potential Natural Gas sites in India are
    1. Bombay High
    2. Gujarat
    3. Assam
    4. KG Basin
    5. Kaveri Basin
  • After 1990, production of natural gas increased phenomenally yet production falls short of demand,
Year Production (in million m^3)
1960 17
1970 76
1980 200
1990 12,873
2000 20,920
2010 25,750

4. Shale Gas

  • Shale oil, often known as “tight oil,” is found in lesser quantities and deeper than conventional crude reserves. Its extraction requires creating fractures in oil and gas-rich shale to release hydrocarbons through hydraulic fracking.
  • Note: Shale is Sedimentary Rock 
  • It is colourless, odourless & lighter than air.
  • In India, potential Shale Gas reserves are in 
    1.  Cambay
    2. Gondwana 
    3. Krishna-Godavari (K-G) Basin  
    4. Cauvery Basin 
    5. Ganga Basin 
    6. Assam – Arakan Basin 
    7. Barmer Hill Formation (Rajasthan)
Distribution of Shale Gas in India

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