Explained: How The North East Gas Grid Project Can Be A Game-Changer For The Region

This project to build a gas grid connecting major cities across the Northeast is being monitored closely by the Union Government.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is also keeping close tabs.

An ambitious project to connect major cities across north-eastern India with a gas grid envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 is well on track. The first phase of this Rs 9265 crore venture will be commissioned by early 2024.

The Union Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas created Indradhanush Gas Grid Limited (IGGL), a joint venture between five PSUs–ONGC, Oil India Ltd (OIL), GAIL, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) and Numaligarh Refinery ltd (NRL)–to execute and administer the project in 2018.

Prime Minister Modi laid the foundation stone for the project on 9 February 2019, during his visit to Guwahati. The IGGL is headquartered in Assam’s capital.

Top IGGL executives told Swarajya that the 1656 kilometer natural gas grid will connect all the eight northeastern states. The Union Government will provide Rs 5559 crore (60 per cent of the total project cost) as viability gap funding. This funding will not be linked to any escalation in project cost.

The Northeast accounts for about 20 per cent of the country’s total natural gas output of 75 million standard cubic metres per day. Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura have established gas production potential while Manipur and Nagaland are also believed to have substantial reserves.

In the first phase of the project (see this map) that will be completed by March 2024, 550 kilometers of pipeline are being laid from Guwahati to Numaligarh with a bench line from Gohpur to Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh) and another branch line from Dergaon to Dimapur (Nagaland).

In the second phase, 576 kilometers of pipeline will be laid from Guwahati to Silchar (with one line branching off to Meghalaya’s capital Shillong) and then to Panisagar (Tripura) from where the line bifurcates with one going to Tripura’s capital Agartala and the other to Mizoram’s capital Aizawl.

The third phase of the project involves 360 kilometers of pipelines from Dimapur in Nagaland to that state’s capital Kohima from where the line will proceed to Manipur’s capital Imphal while another line will extend from Siliguri (in Bengal) to Sikkim’s capital Gangtok.

A gas pipeline between Barauni (Bihar) and Guwahati via Siliguri is being constructed by the Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL). The North East Gas Grid will thus be connected to the national grid called the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga Project.

This project that will take clean energy to fuel industries, vehicles and households across the country is also a brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The North East Gas Grid Project is a critical part of the mega Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 that was, once again, envisioned by Prime Minister Modi in 2016. This mega project’s vision document was released in February 2016.

The Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 for the Northeast envisages doubling the production of oil and natural gas by 2030, access to clean fuel (LPG or piped natural gas) to 100 per cent households in the region, make CNG available throughout the region for vehicular traffic and also to run industrial units, incentivise production of biofuel and make the region a biofuel production hub, promote manufacturing industry related to oil and gas in the region and develop natural gas grid, including CNG highways and city gas distribution (CGD) networks.

Projects worth Rs 1.30 lakh crore have been lined up under Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 (see this). A majority of these projects have been approved and are under various stages of implementation.

“Easy availability of LPG and piped natural gas throughout the region–and a large segment of the population of the region would be getting it at highly subsidised rates–will lead to significant reduction in pollution caused by using coal and firewood for cooking, especially in the rural and remote areas of the Northeast,” said a senior IGGL executive.

Also, he added, with CNG powering vehicular traffic and industries in the region, the Northeast will emerge as a clean energy hub that will act as a model for the rest of the country and also South and Southeast Asia.

Industries run on clean energy in the region will turn into globally competitive ones with many advanced countries according primacy to products manufactured by units run on clean energy. This could provide a boost to the economy of the region.

“The long-term vision is that the North East becomes a manufacturing hub for South and Southeast Asia running on clean energy and making world-class products. Clean energy made available through the regional gas grid will thus become a game changer for the Northeast,” said the IGGL executive.

The Union Government is said to be closely monitoring the North East Gas Grid project with the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas keeping close tabs on the functioning of the IGGL.

Till June this year, Rs 1030 crore had been allocated to the IGGL, and Rs 500 crore has been provisioned specifically for the project in the Union Government’s budget estimates for 2021-2022.

“Funds are not an issue at all. We have been promised that if the work on laying the pipelines is expedited, funds will be made available accordingly,” said the IGGL executive.