An exercise in gas

By NT Bureau Published on Mar 01, 2017 03:48 PM IST

FAQs on Neduvasal hydrocarbon project

Chennai, Mar 1 : After being in the boil since December last, the State is finally... no, wait, we have news coming in that the protest against the hydrocarbon project in Neduvasal is snowballing into a big crisis-like situation that Tamilnadu is now so used to, and without which dire withdrawal symptoms were kicking in.

Already media houses (read TV channels) have dispatched their most high-pitched correspondents to Neduvasal to report from top of their voices. Having been air-dropped into the scene, the reporters, in a matter of six or seven minutes, are able to speak as if they had been living there since their birth. This is what all ‘reporting from Ground Zero’ mostly is.

Luckily for you, we at Crank’s News are known for our even-tone and nuance as we cut through the clutter and jargon, and our reports are at once -- this is close to being our motto -- illuminatingly irresponsible. We generally present to you both sides of any coin and leave you to decide why it is not demonetised yet. (Our philosophical position on any issue is: Both camps are wrong).

On the hydrocarbon issue too, we have put our heads together to come up with this FAQs, which we hope will clear the air and give room for fresh confusions.

Give us a brief background of this Neduvasal issue

Neduvasal is the small wicket-gate like small entrance through which the bulls are allowed to enter the arena... oops, that would be vadivasal, which, of course, was the blazing news in January that no one is any more interested now.

Neduvasal is a small village in Pudukottai district where ONGC has got on lease some tracts of land from local farmers for exploration of hydrocarbons, which if you were a science student in higher secondary school, will instantly recall as the chemistry chapter that you left out as it was not important for exams. Hydrocarbons are the generic name for oil, gas, methane and all other stuff that fall under the advanced chemical classification of: Vile smelling.

In a nutshell, what exactly is the project at Neduvasal? Scientists are forever digging the soil (or exploring the space) for -- this is essentially the spirit of scientific curiosity that has seen civilisations evolve -- more money through grants and endowments. After whatever they come up via digging, scientists would come right out and explain that was precisely what they were digging for. In that sense of making up, scientists are poets in lab coats.

At Neduvasal, after detailed research and analysis, they are exploring for -- wait for it -- no one is really sure what it is about.

Seriously, the local farmers who have given the land on lease say they signed up because they were told that the exploration is only for ‘oil’, while the protest is on because the belief is that the digging is for methane and shale gas, which can have an adverse impact on the environment -- according to one study, ‘methane’, in its original form, anagrams to ‘hate men’.

The government and ONGC, which has taken up the project, have both categorically clarified that they will soon issue a detailed clarification. So, as things stand now, whatever views you hold on the subject is both valid and not valid.

Some ONGC projects are already on in TN. Why did they not protest then?

The protest market then was not all that lucrative as it is now.

No, what we mean is those projects were just for oil and natural gas, whereas methane and shell gas exploration, especially if fracking technology is used, is said to be extremely dangerous as they can release gases that are noxious, though slightly less harmful than what politicians have said in the UP poll campaign.

What is fracking? Is it a misspelling of what many newspapers generally refuse to spell?

That is a good one. Well, beneath the ground surface gas and petroleum products are stuck, and to release them fracking is used. Fracking is basically a process of drilling into the ground, and the rocks that have gases in them are targeted using high intensity jets of water, which of course is a product that we mostly get by drilling the ground.

So, to simplify, we dig the ground for water, and then using the same water we dig even more to get things that 1) we don’t know what it is 2) we may not even need.

What is the environmental impact of shale gas exploration and fracking in general?

Tamil Nadu Science Forum is planning a major study on the issue, this should make it clear that there exists such an organisation. But already there are media reports in Tamilnadu that in a village that has an oil rig, 13 people have died due to cancer. This is since 1993, when the said the oil rig may or may not have been operational. This is explosive, as it clearly establishes oil rigging and allied activity can, go back in time, and cause cancer in the past.

Fracking process though, dangerous and harmful to nature, also help get us at a cheaper rate petroleum products that run our vehicles, especially the big tankers that carry water without which fracking is impossible.

We burn resource to get new resource for burning. As the wise scientist said, Punarapi jananam punarapi maranam.