The European Commission’s proposal to identify parts of the gas industry as sustainable has irked climate scientists, geopolitical pressures will now ensure that the world’s first green taxonomy is not on the same side as science
EU wants to label gas as green investment, but the science doesn’t lie
The European Commission’s proposal to identify parts of the gas industry as sustainable has irked climate scientists, geopolitical pressures will now ensure that the world’s first green taxonomy is not on the same side as science
On 2 February, the European Commission announced a proposal to include “specific nuclear and gas energy activities” in the European Union (EU) taxonomy for sustainable activities. Broadly, the taxonomy establishes a list of environmentally sustainable activities in order to meet the EU’s climate targets for 2030 and the objectives of the European green deal. It underscores the role of gas as a transitional fuel to move from coal to renewables and sets out certain conditions under which construction of gas infrastructure would be allowed. But this has drawn serious criticism given its dissonance with climate science—both IPCC recommendations and the EU’s own stated goal of net-zero by 2050.
Ever since the taxonomy proposal to allow green financing for gas was leaked last year, scientists, civil society groups, and even financial institutions have criticised the plan, saying “the taxonomy itself would become a greenwashing tool” given the warming potential of methane. Elaborating on similar concerns, Gunnar Luderer, head of the Energy Systems Group at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said it is important to “conceptually distinguish” between things that are inherently sustainable, i.e. in-line with net-zero targets, and those that are merely bridging solutions like gas so that the credibility of all the other items in the taxonomy is not undermined.”
Even the President of the European Investment Bank expressed similar concerns when he said “If we lose the trust of the investors by selling something as a green project, which turns out to be the opposite, then we cut the feet on which we are standing when it comes to financing the activities of the bank.”
In the process of combustion at power stations, gas emits less CO2 than coal. But this is only part of the climate change picture.
‘Gas is creating a wall, not a bridge’
Extraction and transportation of gas is associated with emissions of methane, which has a warming potential about 86 times greater over a 20-year period than CO2. So when the short-term warming impact of methane is taken into account, “it diminishes any advantage gas has over coal and sometimes disappears altogether,” said Greg Muttitt, senior policy adviser, Energy Supply at International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).
In addition to taking into account all the greenhouse gases that are emitted in the process of gas production, there is also a need to look at the entire process, i.e. including in the process of transportation of gas via pipelines that result in heavy methane leaks.
Investments in new unnecessary gas infrastructure could also divert money away from renewable energy projects that are available today. So while gas could displace some coal from the energy system, it also gets rids of renewables which are much better for the climate. “Increasingly, what we see is that gas power is cost-competitive more often with renewables than with coal. So gas is acting like a wall, not a bridge, in the move to clean energy systems,” Muttitt said.
A 2016 paper warned of “potential for delays” in the deployment of renewable energy systems. These could offset climate benefits from replacing coal with gas, especially in cases where methane leaks are high, the paper stated. So, Muttitt said, the EU characterisation of gas as a green fuel is “damaging and misplaced,” especially given the responsibility that industrialised countries like those in Europe and North America bear to lead the energy transition away from fossil fuels.
Neither consistent with 1.5°C, nor in line with net-zero targets
The 2018 Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called for deep reductions in emissions if the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C is to be maintained. Terming new constructions of gas infrastructure as “inconsistent with the 1.5°C goal,” Drew Shindell, a coordinating lead author for the IPCC Special Report, explained that building gas infrastructure in the 2020s “is a financially unsound choice—to build something now and shut it off in the near term.” Shindell is a professor of Earth sciences at Duke University.
In the 1.5°C scenarios studied in the IPCC Special Report, the median scenario’s energy from gas went down around 40% from 2020-2050 in scenarios with little or no overshoot of the 1.5°C target, and went down by about 30% even in scenarios with high overshoot. (Overshoot describes a scenario in which global mean temperatures temporarily exceed the 1.5°C target before returning below.)
In response to questions CarbonCopy raised about greenhouse gas emissions from gas, a spokesperson for the European Commission referenced the role of carbon capture and storage technologies as a screening criteria for inclusion in the taxonomy and said that gas plants would have to “integrate a rapid conversion towards renewables with a clear commitment for a full switch to renewables by 2035.”
But while there are a few 1.5°C-consistent scenarios that account for more energy from gas in the next 30 years, “these tend to rely on very rapid and large-scale deployment of carbon dioxide removal, so are, in my opinion, extremely risky,” Shindell said.
Dr. Joeri Rogelj, coordinating lead author for the chapter on mitigation pathways in the IPCC Special Report, agrees that the decision to continue the use of fossil gas alongside large-scale deployment of carbon dioxide removal measures could have adverse impacts on other sustainability goals. For instance, carbon removal practices that focus on the production and growth of biomass are water-intensive because of irrigation needs, which could then lead to limitations on water availability for biodiversity.
A February 2022 report by IISD, Oil Change International (OCI) and Greenpeace drew a similar conclusion from an analysis of net-zero pathways outlined by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The report stated that the IEA’s conclusions may be “conservative,” given its reliance on “extremely rapid growth” in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. There is no pathway to scale up technologies such as CCS to the level that some energy scenarios are projecting.
Kelly Trout, a research analyst at OCI and co-author of the February, 2022 report pointed out that the cautionary approach would be to look at the remaining carbon budget as an absolute limit and “make investments in energy systems without relying on riskier technologies that could prolong the fossil fuel era.”
The representative from the European Commission did not respond to follow-up queries on risks related to carbon capture technologies and other adverse impacts like water usage.
EU jeopardising its own goals
In addition to not being in line with IPCC recommendations, the EU’s taxonomy could also jeopardise its stated goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. In a 2021 report, the Global Energy Monitor said new gas projects in Europe could “threaten to lock-in emissions well beyond 2050.”
The first element of the EU net-zero strategy, Luderer explained, “is to ensure that power systems are almost carbon-free in industrialised countries like ours as soon as possible… within this decade. But by stating that “there is a role for private investment in gas” and thereby enabling the build up of more gas infrastructure via reclassification as ‘green investment,’ the taxonomy proposal seems out-of-sync with the net-zero goal.
The commission’s proposal will now have to be scrutinised by the European Parliament and the European Council, who have a period of around four months to deliberate.
On March 8, 2022, the European Commission laid out a plan to “make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, starting with gas, in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.” The plan entails “diversifying gas supplies.” Even the IEA called on Europe to “replace Russian supplies with gas from alternative sources” to the tune of 30 billion cubic metres within a year. Suffice to say, this is easier said than done, especially given the coal-heavy energy mix in countries like Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, which consider Russian gas as an alternative. Incidentally, domestic politics in many of the same countries also display simmering Euro-scepticism, making the EU’s arbitrations on energy with its eastern members particularly sensitive, with potential implications for the stability of the bloc.
Given the urgent priority of finding alternate sources, the EU might choose the safer option to retain the “green” tag given to gas as a “transition fuel”. The first explicit signs that public support for fossil fuels will continue indefinitely came in the Council of European Union statement on export credits offered to fossil fuel projects. Contrary to earlier commitments of ending public finance to unabated fossil fuel projects by the end of the year, the council statement dated March 1 specifies that member states will determine their own science-based deadlines for ending export credits offered to fossil fuel projects beyond 2023. This would also have repercussions across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) because in the same March 1 statement the council called on the European Commission to launch negotiations at the OECD for similar discussions. The EU’s approach to OECD negotiations on its “Arrangement of financial mechanisms” (where there is already a position limiting coal investments but not yet a position on oil and gas) it considers the EU taxonomy as the relevant benchmark to identify environmentally sustainable projects.
But this completely contradicts other parts of the same statement, Bronwen Tucker of OCI pointed out. For instance, the statement notes that EU countries and the OECD are expected to work towards “ending officially supported export credits for projects in the fossil fuel energy sector, beyond coal and including oil and natural gas projects, unless in limited and clearly defined circumstances that are consistent with a 1.5°C warming limit and the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
The EU green taxonomy is among the first in the world and so is likely to be used as a guide for similar exercises aimed at categorising investments in other parts of the world. The EU’s implicit denial of the damaging potential of gas for climate action is a worrying portent that could extend dependence on fossil fuels by decades.The IPCC’s AR6 WG3 report, which discusses mitigation options and pathways, is due to be released in two weeks and the ongoing recalibrations of energy strategies will likely be an important aspect during plenary negotiations on the key messages of the report, particularly with respect to the continuation of fossil fuel dependence and the role of carbon removal technologies. The cues, however, are clear. Rapidly evolving political considerations have set the stage to drive yet another nail in the coffin of science-based climate policy.
‘Climate extremities’: India battles early heat waves in March
Barely out of winter most of the country is already reeling under extreme heat in March. Parts of the Himalayan states of Himachal and Uttrakhand recorded temperatures 7 to 8 degrees above normal, reported HT.
On Tuesday temperatures reached 39-41°C in parts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha, and Telangana. Scientists said that while clear skies were adding to solar radiation and warming in those regions, the very high temperatures in the west coast was the work of easterly winds, which have weakened the sea breeze over Mumbai and Konkan.
Experts said IMD’s recent heatwave warning highlights the impact of climate extremities in recent years, which aligns with the projection of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The report quoted experts stating that the Climate Vulnerability Index suggests Indian districts have undergone a 45% change in their landscape attributes (tree cover, forest coves, wetlands, mangroves, among others), thereby triggering these heat extremities.
Cyclone Asani to be year’s first storm likely to form over Bay of Bengal
A low pressure area is building up in the Bay of Bengal, which will turn into a full-fledged cyclone Asani on March 23, according to the IMD forecast it. Gale winds up to 90 kmph strong are likely to hit the Bay of Bengal and Bangladesh and Myanmar coasts. Experts tweeted that as per the forecast, Asani will become the first ever tropical cyclone to hit Andaman and Nicobar Islands in March. Not a single tropical cyclone has hit the region in March in at least 132 years.
An IMD official told HT that for now, it does not seem like it will affect the Indian coast. The IMD models indicate Asani may cross Bangladesh or the adjoining north Myanmar coasts. But it is also too early to determine the trajectory. All conditions are favourable for formation and intensification of the cyclone.
Carbon emissions reached highest levels globally last year: IEA analysis
Global carbon emissions reached their highest levels in history in 2021 as the world relied heavily on fossil fuels to economically recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a new analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA), CO2 emissions linked to energy rose by 6% in 2021.
The main reason for the rise was coal, largely driven by China, according to the analysis. Coal use increased because of the spike in gas prices in the EU and US, along with a rise in extreme weather, according to the report published in The Independent.
Caribbean coral reefs warming for a century, finds study
Coral reefs in the Caribbean have been warming for at least a century, a new study found. The research, published in the journal Plos Climate, put together a database of 5,326 unique reefs across the Caribbean for the period between 1871 and 2020. The study stated that regional warming began in 1915 and rose significantly in the latter half of the 19th century. After a lull until the mid-20th century, warming began again in the early 1980s in some regions and 1990s for others, according to the study. The reefs warmed by 0.18°C per decade on average during this period.
Unpaid insurance claims for natural disasters amounted to ₹1,705.52 crore in 2020-2021
Outstanding claims for natural disasters in 2020 and 2021 are ₹1,705.52 crore, according to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India’s (IRDAI) annual report. The claims have been made for cyclones, including Amphan and Nisarga, and floods in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Only 29.72% claims worth ₹760.68 crore have been settled so far, according to the report. The report is significant because the IPCC’s recent Working Group II report lists access to insurance as a key adaptation strategy while dealing with the climate crisis.
Bihar, Jharkhand at bottom of India’s SDG achievements, Kerala on top
Three Indian states–Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam—achieved the least amount of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) last year. Odisha, which otherwise scored poorly on most SDGs, was at the top of the list for its climate action SDG. The data was revealed in a report released by environment minister Bhupendra Yadav. It examined each of the 28 states on 15 of the 17 SDGs on a scale of 1 to 100. Kerala made it to the top of the list with a score of 75, while Bihar was at the bottom with a score of 52.
US commits to just $1 billion in international climate finance in 2022
The US Congress gave its nod to just $1 billion in international climate finance for this year—$387 million more than the Trump administration, according to the World Resources Institute. At this rate, the US’ contribution will add up to $11.4 billion by 2050, which is much later than 2024 that the Biden administration had promised.
According to the bill passed by the Congress, $270 million has been allocated for bilateral adaptation finance, but there is no allocation for the UN’s Green Climate Fund (GCF). This despite the US owing the UN fund $2 billion after Donald Trump backtracked on an Obama-era promise of delivering $3 billion.
Investors approve 14-point gold standard for corporate climate lobbying
Investors launched a 14-point action plan on corporate climate lobbying for companies to adhere to. The Global Standard on Responsible Climate Lobbying will guide firms on how to commit to responsible climate lobbying and take action if there is a misalignment with global climate goals. Companies risk having their actions put to a shareholder vote if they don’t follow the plan.
Long exposure to air pollution increases risks of autoimmune diseases
A new study at the University of Verona stated that long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution was associated with an approximately 40% higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, a 20% higher risk of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, and a 15% higher risk of connective tissue diseases, such as lupus.
Scientists studied about 81,363 men and women on an Italian database assessing risk of fractures between June 2016 and November 2020. About 12% were diagnosed with an autoimmune disease during this period. Each patient was linked to the nearest air quality monitoring station via their residential postcode. The study analysed average long-term exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 at levels more than 30µg/m3 for PM10 and 20µg/m3 for PM2.5 was associated with, respectively, a 12% and 13% higher risk of autoimmune disease.
Toxic air shortening lives of children by 1 year 8 months: State of Global Air report
Air pollution can shorten the lives of children by an average of a year and eight months, according to two new reports from the State of Global Air initiative. In some of the worst-affected countries, babies born today will, on average, lose more than three years of life unless air pollution improves. The scientists conclude that a child born in 2019 would die 12 months sooner, on average, than would be expected in the absence of exposure to PM2.5.
The report points out that in low and low-middle SDI countries, the impact on human longevity of all air pollution (2.5–2.7 yr) is much higher than that of all cancers (1.4–1.7 yr) and tobacco smoking (1.2–1.9 yr).
According to the report in India, the life expectancy reduction from exposure to ambient PM2.5 (1.51 yr) is greater than years of life expectancy loss from all cancers (1.39 yr). The report warns that ambient and household PM2.5 air pollution have a combined impact on life expectancy that is of a magnitude comparable to the very largest threats to human health and longevity. In China, eliminating household and outdoor air pollution as risk factors for mortality would have a similar benefit to life expectancy (1.85 yr) as averting all deaths from ischemic heart disease (1.89 yr).
No country in the world meets WHO’s new annual guideline of 5µg/m3 for ambient PM2.5. Further, fewer than half of the world’s countries meet the least stringent interim target of 35µg/m3, the report states.
UN report: Businesses creating pollution ‘sacrifice zones’ across the globe
A UN report has blamed businesses for creating pollution “sacrifice zones” across the world, where tens of millions of people are suffering strokes, cancers, respiratory problems and heart disease as a result of toxic contamination of the environment. Scientists said the rise of toxic pollution hotspots is hitting poor communities hardest. The report said 95% of children in Kabwe, Zambia, have elevated levels of lead in their blood, putting them at risk of lifelong intellectual impairment. The Pata Rât landfill in Romania, exposes thousands of Roma people to arsenic, lead, mercury and other pollutants.
The French overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique, in the Caribbean, where 90% of people were found to have the carcinogenic pesticide chlordecone in their blood. And in Louisiana, US, a place called ‘cancer alley’ has more than a hundred oil refineries, petrochemical plants, in poor, predominantly black communities.
Aerosol pollution is warming the planet as well: Study
Scientists found that climate change is not just caused by CO2 and methane emissions, but also by aerosol pollution. Human-caused aerosols have increased rapidly over India, China and Southeast Asia, fed by particles of ash, soot and organic carbon compounds, researchers said.
The man-made aerosols are emitted from vehicle exhausts, factories, ships and coal-burning power plants, by farmers burning field stubble, by land grabbers clearing Amazon forest with fire and by gas flares on oil rigs and discarded plastic shopping bags. Even tumble driers release microplastic fibres that float skyward. These sources have increased dramatically over the industrial period, roughly in step with greenhouse gases.
Scientists said the aerosols tend to hang in the atmosphere near their source, or move as localised or regional masses via air currents, and they can affect the climate in a host of contradictory ways, both cooling or warming, triggering drought or intense rainfall.
MNRE reduces performance guarantee to 3% for RE tenders
The Centre reduced the performance-guaranteed deposits to 3% of the value of the RE tenders. Until November 2020, the performance back guarantee (PBG) was between 5% to 10%, which was reduced to 3% to help developers boost liquidity during the COVID 19-related economic slowdown. The government added that 2% of earnest money deposits will continue to be levied. Developers have been concerned about liquidity over higher PBG and EMD values and delays releasing the amounts, Mercom reported.
Andhra Pradesh high court says state can’t renegotiate PPAs, DISCOMS get 6 months to clear dues
The Andhra Pradesh high court said power contracts cannot be renegotiated and ordered the state to clear dues of around Rs30,000 crore to renewable energy generators within 6 weeks. The case has been pending over two years. Andhra Pradesh’s move to reinitiate Power Purchase Agreements was the first in the country, which was then followed by the states of Gujarat and Punjab.
The Andhra Pradesh government in 2019 decided to renegotiate 41 PPAs, following which the DISCOMs had asked wind power developers to revise down the tariff to Rs2.43 per unit and solar plants to cut the price to Rs2.44 per unit.
India’s cumulative solar capacity reaches 50 GW
India’s cumulative installed solar capacity has reached 50GW in February 2022, according to research firm Mercom. Of this, 43GW was of utility-scale solar and 7 GW was of rooftop solar. India is chasing an RE target of 100 GW by 2022. Currently, 53 GW is in the pipeline, Mercom reported.
India had made 10 GW of capacity additions in 2021, which represented a 210% increase on the year before. While a part of this could be explained by the COVID-19 pandemic causing a drop in installations, India’s deployment figures had been falling year-on-year since 2017. Given this, the boost will be welcomed from the country’s solar industry, although upcoming policy changes will cause concern for India’s downstream sector.
China to build 450 GW by 2030 in Gobi desert region
China is set to build 450 GW of wind and solar power capacity in the Gobi desert by 2030, Climate Change News reported, adding that it was more than twice the total amount of solar and wind power installed in the USA.
Quoting Greenpeace East Asia’s Li Shuo the report said 450 GW of renewable power in China’s underdeveloped western regions was the positive side of the China climate story, but the challenge is to stop the coal side of the story, which is growing in equally big numbers.The province of Inner Mongolia, which includes most of China’s Gobi desert, is the biggest producer of coal in China has been put on coal-led recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. China has brought the costs of manufacturing solar panels down and is able to use these cheap domestic panels in projects like this.
India: Exide ties up with China’s SVOLT to manufacture li-ion batteries
India’s largest battery maker, Exide, will tie up with China’s SVOLT Energy Technology Ltd. to manufacture li-ion batteries for EVs, and the deal is a part of a multi-year plan for Exide to step up its battery manufacturing capabilities. Its board has okayed a greenfield manufacturing facility for the deal that will produce several gigawatts worth of the batteries every year, and the deal is Exide’s second foray into the space after its joint venture with Leclanché SA of Switzerland.
Meanwhile, Reliance New Energy will acquire the entire battery manufacturing portfolio of Netherlands-based Lithium Werks, which manufactures cobalt-free li-ion EV batteries. The deal is reportedly worth $61 million and will include the company’s manufacturing facility in China.
Yulu to expand its battery-as-a-service setup to 100,000 units
India’s first battery-as-a-service (BaaS) operator, Yulu, will reportedly expand its Max network of battery swapping stations to 10 cities. Currently based in Bangalore and backed by automotive giant Bajaj, the operator provides a network of battery swapping stations and has completed 3 million swaps so far. It also plans to expand its fleet of vehicles that provide the service from 10,000 units at the moment to 100,000 units by the end of 2022.
Russia-Ukraine conflict ups nickel prices by a staggering 320%
The military conflict between Russia and Ukraine has caused a meteoric rise in the price of Nickel (a key component of EV batteries) — so much so that the input prices for popular electric vehicles (such as Tesla cars) may go up by as much as $1000 in the short term. Russia is a key producer of nickel but the country is currently under immense global sanctions, which has greatly constricted the supply of the metal and even pushed the price of the metal to as high as $101,000 tonnes last week. Since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, the metal has gained 320% in per ton prices.
US: Joe Manchin sows further doubt about government’s investment in EVs
Democrat senator Joe Manchin sowed even more doubt about the Biden government’s funding for EVs and EV chargers as he said that it would result in the country having to “wait in line” for batteries from China. The senator holds the key swing vote in the US senate and has repeatedly criticised Joe Biden’s climate plans and his bills to move the country away from ICE vehicles. Manchin also said that Henry Ford built the Model T (America’s first mass-produced car) but not the gas stations — the market did. The comments come at a time when gasoline prices in the US have surged to up to $4.30/gallon, which has led to sharp increase in the demand (and interest) in EVs.
EU meets to phase out Russian oil and gas by 2027
The 27 EU nations met at Versaille, France to discuss an urgent response to the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, with the proposal to phase out the bloc’s dependence on Russian oil and gas imports by 2027. It would instead import more LNG from other nations and increase its use of hydrogen, but while the proposal aims to make the shift “as soon as possible”, it’s also likely to consider its member nations’ individual “choices of energy mix”, and a firm date for the phase out has not yet been set.
Ukraine reacted to the target by saying that since the EU paid hundreds of millions of dollars to Russia every day for the fuels, ending the imports by 2027 was not adequately immediate, and also called for the embargo to extend to Russian timber and wood products to further intensify the impact of the sanctions.
India to boost domestic coal production while looking to import more from Russia
Further strengthening the role of private miners, the Indian government announced on March 8 that they would produce 350-400 million tonnes of coal by 2030 in an effort to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported supplies. India imports 90% of its coal shipments from Australia, South Africa and Indonesia, but the announcement is likely another step towards the government’s goal of energy independence (Atmanirbharta), and will support Coal India’s previous goal of producing more than 1 billion tonnes of the fuel by 2030. Interestingly, however, Coal India is also targeting net-zero emissions in “3-4 years”, although the goal will not cover the emission from burning the fuel itself.
Also, India may soon accept more shipments of Russian coal as the latter struggles to sell its products in the international market. Having been cut off from most western economies under sanctions, the country is turning to China and India as alternatives, and is reportedly considering setting up a Rouble-Rupee trade mechanism to possibly circumvent the Russian banks having been shut out of the international SWIFT payments mechanism.
India: NTPC Vindhyachal to set up unique carbon capture plant and produce methanol
India’s largest thermal power plant will set up a first-of-its-kind carbon capture plant by 2023 to capture the CO2 that would have been released, and will combine it with hydrogen to manufacture methanol instead. The novel project will be deployed at the 4,783MW Vindhyachal plant in Madhya Pradesh — it also produces solar and hydro power — and the region around the power plant has been planted with 2.5 million saplings under NTPC’s efforts to reduce its environmental footprint. Also, NITI Aayog has set out targets for the country to use methanol under its “Methanol Economy” vision, and plans to use the fuel for both transport and energy applications to lower India’s oil imports.
OGCI commits to near zero fugitive emissions by 2030
The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative companies — a consortium of the world’s largest oil and gas drillers — committed to cutting its fugitive methane emissions to “near zero” by 2030, and the announcement is a step towards the calls from the COP26 summit that called for a reduction in methane emission by 30% by the end of the decade. The OGCI chairman acknowledged that cutting the emissions was a good short-term solution to meeting climate targets by the industry and the members (including ExxonMobil and Shell) will also report their annual methane emissions — which the IEA says are 70% higher than reported figures.
India: Environment ministry to deliberate on not exempting extended reach drilling from clearances
The Indian environment ministry will reportedly deliberate further on whether to keep extended reach drilling (ERD) away from the ambit of mandatory clearances in protected forest areas. The process is used to drill long horizontal shafts in the ground to reach oil and gas deposits, but it is known to cause surface contamination and also increases the risk of forest fires in the drilling region — as was noted in the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam in 2020 — apart from noise and ground vibrations that can affect the sensitive ecology of the protected areas.
An interim report on the matter from 2020 was found to not have adequately accounted for the practice’s impact on local wildlife, although it was later reneged in the report’s next revision in 2021 by the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), which also termed ERD to be “environmentally safe and the best technology” for extracting hydrocarbons in sensitive regions. However, various technical details around the actual drilling procedure were still under review.