New bets: ONGC could start offshore drilling in the Andaman Sea as early as the post-monsoon season. | Photo: Pixabay

Offshore oil and gas exploration in the Andaman sea imminent

The Indian government has reportedly accelerated plans to commence oil and gas exploration in the Andaman deep water basin. According to reporting in The Economic Times, the Centre is putting together a funding plan for an ONGC-led drilling campaign and considering easing clearances to fast track the project. Offshore drilling in the Andaman Sea could start as early as the post-monsoon season with ONGC exploring collaborations with ExxonMobil and Shell to drill 3-4 wells under the project at an estimated cost of Rs350-400 crore. ONGC currently holds rights over three blocks and Oil India holds drilling rights over one block in the Andaman offshore waters.

 Coal workers’ strike over wage increase demands likely to worsen shortages in India

State-owned coal mining company Coal India Limited (CIL) is currently contending with the possibility of a strike from the entirety of its 2,52,000 workforce, who are pushing for an increase in wages. Trade unions representing a majority of CIL’s coal workers have held five rounds of meetings with the company, but remain far from any agreement. Non-executive workers, who form 94% of the CIL total workforce, are demanding a 47% increase in wages, down from the initial demand of a 50% hike after CIL offered a 3% increase. Worker wages at CIL, which are revised every five years, are currently estimated to have amounted to Rs. 40,700 crore ($5.2 billion) in the 12 months ended in March. While facing higher costs of production, CIL has spent more than a third of its revenue on salaries in the past year.

Russia: Rising oil and gas demand tempers effect of sanctions 

Russian economic output is set to contract by only 3.5%, instead of the projected figures of up to 12% by its own estimates, as the country reportedly rakes in record oil and gas revenues despite the global sanctions. The country has found takers for its increased oil exports in several Asian countries that are keen to take advantage of the lower prices, even though other areas of its economy have suffered, such as its automotive production losing 97% of its output since the sanctions were instituted. The demand for oil has been so high that Russia’s oil production was up 7% in June (versus its lows at the start of its military offensive), and despite its falling output of natural gas, it has been helped by the global spike in its demand as a “bridge fuel” for the energy transition. 

Biden govt sued over resuming oil and gas drilling leases 

The Biden administration was sued by a group of environmental organisations over its resumption of oil and gas drilling leases in Utah, North Dakota, Nevada and Montana. The lawsuit alleges that the leases violate the government’s own Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which necessitates the prevention of “undue degradation” of public lands, and would cause significant amounts of pollution. Some of the plaintiffs are the Centre for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. Interestingly, the plaintiffs’ research shows that despite promising a freeze on drilling leases by Joe Biden during his election campaign, in its very first year his government has issued leases 34% faster than the previous administration. 

South Korea announces new energy plan, to re-introduce nuclear power 

The new president of South Korea unveiled his government’s energy plan for the country, which aims to lower its dependence on fossil fuel imports from 81.1% in 2021 to less than 70% by 2030. However, the new plan will scrap the previous government’s nuclear phase-out policy and will raise the country’s share of nuclear power to 30% by the end of the decade — up from 27.1% in 2021. The plan also makes provisions for the country’s LNG storage and strategic oil reserves to be expanded, with the latter deemed necessary to ensure stable oil supplies, and the increase will be a part of South Korea’s new “special law on energy security” for fossil fuels and uranium. Most importantly, the new government will replace the country’s aging coal power capacity with LNG-fired plants. 

Canada: Doctors’ group urges ban on ads featuring fossil fuels

A group of Canadian physicians and related occupations wrote an open letter to the country’s government, urging it to ban the advertising of gasoline vehicles and natural gas-powered cookstoves. The group alleged that the ads never highlight the severe negative consequences of the use of fossil fuels, and combined with the staggering amount of funding they receive, the ads are effective in drawing massive consumer interest. The group also said that nearly 80% of the funding for gasoline vehicles in Canada focussed on trucks and SUVs, and they (consequently) accounted for two-thirds of all vehicle sales in the region. 

The group instead asked the Canadian government to follow the examples set by Norway and France, that require the ads to disclose the CO2 footprint of the vehicles and bar the use of terms such as “environmentally friendly” for the products in question. The letter additionally identified natural gas-fired cookstoves as a cause of elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide indoors, which has been known to irritate occupants. 

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