For 60 years, ONGC had tried to find oil in the Bengal basin. The Bengal basin, especially the Sundarbans region, was believed to contain vast mineral oil reserves. However, drilling more than 150 wells in various areas proved futile. Finally, the oil search at Ashoknagar, 45 km northeast of Kolkata, showed promising results. The oil field was confirmed commercially viable in 2018, and production started in the year 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic situation in the country.
Oil was first discovered in the first phase of drilling in 2014. The second phase of drilling concluded with proven commercial exploitation in 2018. Ashoknagar is believed to contain more oil than previously thought. The authorities remained tight-lipped during the initial stages of oil discovery since so many attempts in the past found only insignificant reserves. Ashoknagar oil field is also an isolated oil field in the country, not located in any of the oil-producing basins of India. Thus ONGC included it in a new basin, named Bengal basin, which became the 8th oil-producing basin in India.
First gas was discovered in Ashoknagar 2300 metres below the ground, and oil was found below it. The quality of oil here is said to be superior to that of Bombay High, India’s most prolific oil asset. It is superior to Brent Crude and is at par with West Texas Intermediate, the world’s best-known benchmark crude oil. This crude oil will be refined at the nearest oil refinery at Haldia. Both Ashoknagar and Haldia are already connected by rail connectivity for the transportation of crude oil.
ONGC hopes to find better results in the Ashoknagar region; hence they have already planned to drill two or three more wells in the nearby areas. This time, the well reaches a depth of 3700 metres, where there are higher chances of getting oil. The State Government has provided land free of cost to ONGC for oil exploration on local employment conditions. ONGC has already employed 15 locals on the job. More employment is expected once the new explorations are started. The sleepy suburban village town is expected to rise to prominence as more workers arrive in the area, helping the villagers to grow their business. The shrinking economy in the country may receive a new boost if the import of oil is reduced.
Written by – Himadri Paul