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Role of Natural Gas in India: Recent Developments and Future Perspectives

Written By

Akhoury Sudhir Kumar Sinha, Sanjay Kumar Kar, Umaprasana Ojha and Marriyappan Sivagnanam Balathanigaimani

Submitted: October 4th, 2021 Reviewed: October 21st, 2021 Published: February 9th, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.101346

Natural Gas - New Perspectives and Future Developments Edited by Maryam Takht Ravanchi

From the Edited Volume

Natural Gas - New Perspectives and Future Developments [Working Title]

Dr. Maryam Takht Ravanchi

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India strives for increasing the share of natural gas to 15% by 2030 from 6.5% at present. This chapter highlights recent developments to achieve the targets set by the government. Further, we discuss regulatory and policy interventions to facilitate the growth of the natural gas market in the country. We analyze the opportunities and challenges to the smooth transition of the green economy with the greater role of natural gas. We present the infrastructure developments, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) importing terminals, cross-country natural gas pipelines network, LNG tankers, refueling stations, and city gas distribution (CGD) network. Finally, we present a futuristic perspective of natural gas in the energy transition. We conclude that India being a natural gas deficient country, import dependency would continue to grow. However, this would not deter the growth of natural gas in the economy. Proactive measures by the government and its agencies will boost investment to create the desired infrastructure for achieving higher natural gas penetration in India.


  • natural gas
  • price
  • city gas distribution
  • import
  • India

1. Introduction

India commits to addressing climate change without compromising economic growth. It continues to expand its energy basket and reduce over-dependence on coal and oil. India is on the right path to managing its energy transition. It aims to increase the share of natural gas to 15% by 2030 [1] from 6.5% at present. Experts believe that India must go through multiple phases of the energy transition. In this context, many believe that natural gas could play the role of a transition fuel. However, we believe that natural gas has a more prominent role than just a bridge fuel. The government firmly pushes the adoption of natural gas as a clean fuel. In line with the United Nation’s sustainable development goal # 7 [2], natural gas offers a solution to ensure modern and clean energy is accessible to millions of customers at an affordable price in India. Further, natural gas is a viable and affordable solution to reduce pollution in cities and industries. The transport sector, one of the biggest CO2 emitters, stands to benefit from the higher penetration of natural gas in the country.


2. Natural gas market in India

India’s natural gas market is at a growth stage. Its demand for natural gas has been growing steadily. India’s unsaturated market has the potential to expand gas demand at a faster rate. This section highlights natural gas reserves, domestic production, consumption, deficit, and import.

2.1 Proved natural gas reserves

At the end of 2020, India’s proven natural gas reserves stood at 1.32 trillion cubic meters (TCM) compared to just 0.731 TCM in 2000, 80.5% growth in 20 years. Despite India’s rising natural gas reserves, its share is just 0.7% of the global reserves. Asia-Pacific, the world’s most populous region holds 8.8% of the global reserves. In this region, China leads the table with a 4.5% share followed by Australia, India, Indonesia, and others. Global natural gas resources are quite unevenly distributed. Russia, Iran, and Qatar hold 19.9%, 17.1%, and 13.1% of the global reserves, respectively. These three countries collectively controlled 50% of the global natural gas reserves of 188 TCM in 2020 (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Proven natural gas reserves in India. Source: prepared by the authors using Statistical Review of World Energy 2021.

2.2 Domestic production

India’s natural gas production has been a cause of concern for the government and the operating companies. The consuming industries, especially the power and fertilizer producers are at the receiving end. The falling natural gas production has severely impacted the power and fertilizer producers. If India continues to produce at the current rate the reserve to production ratio (R/P) suggests that natural gas can last for 56 years. However, the production rate is bound to increase in the future (Figure 2), thereby the R/P ratio will fall.

Figure 2.

India’s domestic natural gas production.

2.3 Demand projections

Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB), India had commissioned an industry study in 2011 to assess the realistic demand of natural gas by 2029–2030. The purpose was to advise the government about the development of related infrastructure for making the natural gas available, transport, creating re-gasification plants, and supply to various sectors. The industry group submitted its report in 2013. PNGRB projected that the demand for natural gas to expand up to 746 million standard cubic meters per day (MMSCMD) (Table 1) in 2029–2030 from the actual consumption of 176 MMSCMD in 2010–2011.

Consuming industry/sector2021–20222026–20272029–2030
City gas distribution46.2567.9685.61
Petchem/refineries/Int. Cons81.99103.41118.85
Sponge iron/steel10.0012.1913.73
Total realistic demand516.97654.55746.03

Table 1.

Projected natural gas demand in India [in MMSCMD].

Source: PNGRB [3].

2.4 Consumption and deficit

Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC) records suggest that the average consumption of natural gas in the first 4 months of the financial year (FY) 2021–2022 was around 171 MMSCMD, which was 316 MMSCMD lower than the PNGRB projections. In fact, from the year 2012–2013 till 2020–2021, the trend of consumption of natural gas had been significantly lower than PNGRB’s projections. India achieved about 34% of the natural gas demand projections for the FY 2020–2021 compared to 65% achievement in 2012–2013 (Table 2). During the said period, consumption of natural gas increased marginally but the actual consumption was markedly lower than the projections. The widening gap between projected demand and actual consumption could be due to sluggish natural gas demand in the industries and transport sector. The reasons for sluggish demand and slow penetration of natural gas could be ascribed to a combination of factors including lower domestic natural gas production, high import price, and infrastructure bottlenecks.

YearProjectionActual consumptionAchievement against projections

Table 2.

Natural gas consumption in India (MMSCMD).

Source: prepared by the authors based on projections of PNGRB [3] and actual consumption data of PPAC.

Arguably, the natural gas market development was slower than expectations. The natural gas market development was largely dependent on the ample supply of domestic natural gas at affordable prices [4]. The user of natural gas in power plants, fertilizer plants, cement plants, ceramic industries, refineries, and petrochemical plants were expected to strongly drive natural gas market development, which did not happen.

The gas-based power plants expected domestic gas to address their long-standing supply concerns. Unfortunately, falling domestic natural gas production aggravated their pain points. The natural gas consumption by power plants declined from 22,628 MMSCM in 2011–2012 to 11,020 MMSCM in 2019–202020. The share of natural gas consumption by power plants fell from 35% in 2011–2012 to 17% in 2019–20. During the period, natural gas consumption in refineries, fertilizer plants, and the city gas distribution (CGD) network improved (Figure 3). The government prioritized natural gas allocation to the CGD network, especially for the domestic and transport segments, which resulted in higher consumption.

Figure 3.

Natural gas consumption by selected sectors in India [5].

It is evident from Table 2 that domestic supply shrank from approximately 109 MMSCMD in 2012–2013 to 76 MMSCMD. Consequently, during the same period, liquefied natural gas (LNG) import increased from 48 MMSCMD to 90 MMSCMD. LNG import registered 88.5% growth to maintain the share of natural gas and meet rising natural gas demand.

The higher contribution of natural gas in India’s primary energy basket will be severely constrained without boosting demand in the industries, especially power and fertilizer plants. The refineries, petrochemical plants, and CGD network will continue to augment natural gas consumption. CARE Ratings—a leading credit rating agency [6] indicated that higher urea production will foster demand for natural gas. However, the fertilizer plants will need natural gas supply at a competitive price, supply of domestic natural gas will be desirable.

India’s natural gas domestic production has been lower than consumption. It is evident from Figure 4 that natural gas consumption has been fluctuating. The slack domestic natural gas production failed to meet the demand, therefore, the deficit kept widening. So, India’s dependence on natural gas imports continued to rise. Due to a lack of import options through a pipeline, India primarily relied on the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Figure 4.

India’s widening natural gas deficit. Source: prepared by the authors using PPAC data [7].

2.5 LNG import

Globally LNG trade registered a strong improvement over the previous decade. By December 2020, global LNG trade reached 350 million tons. By February 2021, the global LNG regasification capacity in 39 markets hit 850 million tons per annum (MMTPA). According to the International Gas Union Report (2021), the leading natural gas deficit countries like Japan, China, South Korea, India, and Spain depended on LNG imports. The rising demand of LNG in the Asia-pacific region resulted in the liquefaction capacity addition in the middle east, Russia, and Australia.

Due to India’s rising natural gas deficit the import of LNG escalated from 18 billion cubic meters (BCM) in 2012 to 33.8 BCM in 2020 (Figure 5). Owing to severe Covid-19 linked disruptions including national and state lockdowns, natural gas consumption slowed down in 2020–2021. As a result, the import of LNG was marginally lower than the previous year. India largely depended on Qatar for its LNG import. However, newer import destinations like Russia and USA offered an opportunity to reduce over-dependence on any single-sourcing country.

Figure 5.

LNG import in India. Source: prepared by the authors using data available on the PPAC website [7].

India’s LNG import would continue to increase in the near and long term. Recently Petronet LNG CEO stated that “India needed to increase its LNG import capacity to 155 MMTPA considering 80% utilization to enhance the use of the cleaner fuel” [8]. The capacity expansion will depend on pipeline connectivity for evacuating re-gasified LNG (R-LNG), the price of imported LNG, and acceptance of R-LNG at the price point by the consuming industries. High LNG price often hampers buyer acceptance; therefore, it slows down LNG infrastructure development. However, investment in LNG infrastructure is long-term in nature, so temporary LNG price fluctuations should not deter LNG infrastructure build-up.


3. National gas grid

India aspires to raise natural gas’s share to 15% by 2030 from 6.5% in 2020, which necessitates the development of associated infrastructure. Often the natural consumption centers are away from production centers, so pipeline connectivity or virtual pipelines are critical to meet the demand. India’s natural gas grid would expand to 32,559 km from the existing operational network of 17,016 km (Table 3).

PipelineAuthorized length (km)Authorized capacity (MMSCMD)
1Operational natural gas pipelines12,654337.3
2Natural gas pipelines partly commissioned#13,680406.5
3Natural gas pipelines under construction6225180.9

Table 3.

India’s natural gas grid (as on June 30, 2020).

Commissioned length 4362 km.

Source: compiled from published sources [9].

India’s plan for creating an interconnected “National Gas Grid” shall support the wider supply and distribution of R-LNG throughout the nation. Indian natural gas pipeline network is less penetrated compared to the developed countries. At present, for every million population only about 12.3 km of natural gas pipeline exists in India. India’s 17,016 km of natural pipeline network is insufficient to connect all demand centers. Therefore, the government wants to develop a pan-India natural gas grid of 32,559 km, which can address the existing regional disparities of the natural gas pipeline network. A fully functional national gas grid will improve natural gas accessibility throughout India.

As per the data available on the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell website the average capacity utilization of natural gas pipelines stood at 54% during 2018–2019. Only nine pipelines had capacity utilization above 50% and Dahej-Vijaipur (DVPL)-Vijaipur-Dadri (GREP) pipeline had a capacity utilization of 67% and Dabhol-Bengaluru Pipeline (Including spur) had 8% capacity utilization. Most of the existing pipelines are underutilized and the operators are trying to enhance the productivity of the pipelines. Pipeline Infrastructure Limited, now the owner of East-West Pipeline has decided to inject green hydrogen into its pipeline, which will help improving the capacity utilization of the pipeline.


4. LNG Infrastructure in India

Natural gas consumption should expand from 165–170 MMSCMD to 640–700 MMSCMD by 2030 to reach 15% of primary energy consumption. Given the fact that domestic production may not go beyond 100 MMCMD from the current levels of 75 MMSCMD, the gap shall have to be filled with the import of LNG for which adequate regasification terminals should be created. At end of 2020, India had six operational LNG terminals with a cumulative capacity of 42.5 MMTPA (Table 4). Petronet LNG Limited operated the largest LNG terminal at Dahej, Gujarat with a capacity of 17.5 MMTPA. The Petronet LNG Limited was the largest operator with 54% of the total commissioned LNG terminal capacity. The Dahej and Kochi terminals handled 254 and 14 LNG cargoes respectively in the financial year 2020–2021. Utilization of Kochi terminal improved due to commissioning of Mangalore section of GAIL’s Kochi Mangalore pipeline in 2020–2021.

Sl. no.PlaceStateDeveloper(s)Year of commissioningAnnual capacity (MMTPA)
1DahejGujaratPetronet LNG Limited (PLL)200417.5
2HaziraGujaratShell Energy India20055
3DabholMaharashtraGAIL (India) Limited20135
5EnnoreTamil NaduIndian Oil Corporation20195
6MundraGujaratGSPC LNG20205
Total commissioned42.5
Under construction
7JaigarhMaharashtraWestern Concessions Private Limited2021*5
9JafrabadGujaratSwan LNG2022*5
10ChharaGujaratHPCL & Shapoorji Pallonji Group2022*5
Total under construction20
Grand total62.5

Table 4.

Operational, under construction, and planned LNG terminals in India.


Source: compiled from published sources [10, 11, 12, 13, 14].

Upcoming LNG terminals in Jaigarh (Floating Storage and Regasification Unit), Dhamra, Jafrabad (Floating Storage Regasification Unit), and Chhara will strengthen India’s LNG infrastructure. Especially, the LNG terminal in Dhamra, Odisha will augment natural gas supply in eastern India and enhance natural gas penetration in the underpenetrated demand centers. Dhamra LNG terminal can expand its capacity up to 10 MMTPA. Dhamra will bolster the CGD network development in Odisha, West Bengal, and Bihar. LNG infrastructure development now spreads across the coastal states in the country, which was not the case earlier. Even then the share of LNG infrastructure is still concentrated in the west coast of India. Well-developed ports, natural gas pipeline connectivity, and early adoption of natural gas in Gujarat, and Maharashtra supported LNG infrastructure in the west coast. On the contrary, despite the strong coastal presence, the eastern and southern states like Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu remained less attractive for developing LNG terminals.

In the coming years, LNG will have greater use, especially LNG as a transport fuel, which will create a market for LNG. Considering the emerging market scenario, LNG has significant growth potential. The new and upcoming consumption centers will create additional demand for LNG.

The existing capacity of LNG regasification terminals will not meet the rising demand. Therefore, the existing LNG infrastructure requires much-needed augmentation to address the supply concerns. So, there is an urgent requirement of creating additional LNG regasification capacity to the tune of 75–80 MMTPA.


5. City gas distribution

Apart from the anchor customers like the power/fertilizer/petrochemical plants, and the refineries, the City Gas Distribution would remain the other most important sector. The government wanted to boost clean fuel adoption in the transport, domestic, and transport sectors, so PNGRB granted 136 authorizations to CGD entities under the 9th and 10th rounds of bidding. This has the potential to cover 53% of the geographical area (GA) of the country and 70% of the population. The number of compressed natural gas (CNG) stations will increase from existing 1838 to over 10,000. In the same way, the number of domestic PNG connections is proposed to be increased from 5.5 million to 40 million. The CGD sector will need investment in the range of Rs. 900–1200 billion by 2030.

The CGD networks growth has taken off only in the last 5–6 years. The historical progress of the award of CGD networks is given in Table 5.

CategoryYearCategory-wise % area of IndiaCumulativeCategory-wise population coverage (%)Cumulative population coverage (%)Category-wise GACumulative GA
2Round 120080.033.050.3310.00637
3Round 220090.033.080.2310.23340
4Round 320101.214.290.7711.00646
5Round 420131.295.582.2713.27955
6Round 520151.827.402.0415.31863
7Round 620152.029.422.0717.381881
8Round 720160.469.880.3617.74182
9Round 820160.5710.450.9418.68688
10Section 420.6111.061.5720.25694
11Round 9201823.8234.8826.3846.6386180
12Round 10201819.9252.824.3270.8650230

Table 5.

CGD network expansion in India.

Source: compiled by authors from published sources [15].

In addition to the above, PNGRB has already announced the 11th round of bidding under which an additional 65 geographical areas could get a CGD network. The government and the PNGRB are constantly striving to expand the CGD network in the country. The government offers the necessary push to build up CGD infrastructure across the country. However, the shift from competing fuels to natural gas will take place only when it becomes cost-competitive. Customers are primarily concerned about the economics of natural gas vs. the competing fuels [16, 17], therefore availability of domestic natural gas or imported LNG at a competitive price will improve the adoption of natural gas.


6. Gas market developments

In addition to the domestic, transport, and industrial segments, there are multiple areas where natural gas could find users. Room heating and cooling offer opportunities for use of natural gas. Higher penetration of the CGD network will facilitate the adoption of CNG for intra-city transport, especially public transport. Despite the economic advantage of CNG over competing fuel, CNG refueling stations remained a major hurdle for inter-city travel. Within the city, mobile refueling units (MRUs) could address refueling concerns as the customers can refuel at their doorstep. MRUs have been working successfully in countries like Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, Korea, etc. India introduced its first MRU (CNG) in June 2021. Due to its flexibility, cost efficiency, and convenience, it has the potential to expand across the country.

The telecom service tower could shift to natural gas/LNG-based generators from diesel generators. There are over 5,20,000 such towers on a pan-India basis and growing. These generators use diesel in case of power outages. The use of natural gas/LNG will be economical as well as environment friendly. LNG use for long-distance transport, inland waterways, LNG bunkering in fishing/marine vessels offers considerable opportunities for adoption as a cleaner fuel.

In addition to the above, the CGD sector will throw open ample opportunities for equipment and spare suppliers in the areas like mechanical meters, smart meters, PNG regulators, PE pipes, online compressor, booster compressor, dispenser, and cascade, etc.

Expansion of the natural gas market will bring along several benefits like socio-economic empowerment, import-substitution, emission reduction, and green energy solutions at affordable prices. Further, natural gas shall address India’s energy security concerns to a greater extent.


7. Enablers for natural gas market growth

The government and regulators have created a conducive environment for investment in gas market development. Consequently, large private players are involved in the entire natural gas value chain. Domestic natural gas allocation policy prioritized gas allocation to the CGD sector, which catalyzes market expansion.

The domestic gas price trends (Figure 6) suggest that the market-based pricing mechanism augurs well for the market development. The domestic natural gas price was fixed at $2.90 per million British thermal units (mbtu) for October 2021–March 2022. The ceiling price for natural gas was fixed at $6.13 per mBtu for October 2021–March 2022.

Figure 6.

Domestic natural gas price trend in India. Source: prepared by the authors using PPAC data [18].

The government’s decision to develop a pan-India natural gas grid will be one of the biggest enablers for gas market growth. Less penetrated regional markets in north-east, east, and south India will get access to natural gas. The availability of natural gas will boost industrial, economic, and social progress in those regions.


8. Impediments for natural gas market growth

For a long period impediments like insufficient infrastructure for the import of natural gas, low cross-country pipeline penetration, and lack of cost-competitiveness of natural gas hampered market growth in India. Despite rising environmental concerns and lower emphasis on polluting fuel, natural gas faces continued challenges from coal. Further, falling renewable electricity price challenges natural gas’s cost competitiveness. The high cost of imported LNG becomes a dampener for power plants to use natural gas. Insufficient availability of domestic natural gas does not offer any hope for the stranded power plants. The Standing Committee on Energy (2020–2021) in its eleventh report pointed out that change in domestic gas allocation policy adversely impacted the stranded power plants. This committee observed that the gas-based power plants which developed based on assured domestic gas supply are unviable on imported R-LNG [19]. High R-LNG price, which is at times twice the price of domestic gas is not sustainable for power plants. Therefore, most of the natural gas-stranded power plants are stressed assets.

The ministry of power stated that the unit cost of power produced from imported R-LNG was around Rs.7/kWh [19], which was expensive compared to coal and renewable power. Solar-based power cost has declined to a record low of Rs 2/kWh, which is comparable to coal-based electricity cost.

Natural gas has been kept outside the purview of goods & services tax (GST), which is an impediment for growth of the sector. Various industry bodies including the Federation of Indian Petroleum Industry recommend bringing natural gas under the ambit of GST [20]. The current tax regime allows states to levy varying amounts of value-added tax, which goes against “one nation one tax” philosophy. Further, buyers of natural gas do not get input credit, consequently, it adds up to the production cost of the industrial customer.

Lack of sufficient cross-country pipeline network remains a major impediment for natural gas market development. The pipeline network has better connectivity in the west coast compared to eastern and north-eastern India. However, the government has taken several steps to build pan-India natural gas pipeline network.


9. Strategic initiatives for natural gas market growth

The government has been pushing for expansion of the natural gas market with a heightened focus on increasing city gas distribution network penetration including CNG at retail outlets across the country. Further, the government emphasizes building cross country pipeline networks to remove the supply bottleneck. The government offers viability gap funding for the infrastructure build-up. For instance, the government committed 60% viability gap funding for Northeast Gas Grid with an estimated project cost of Rs 92.65 billion [21]. The Indradhanush Gas Grid Limited shall connect eight north-eastern states with a 1656 km natural gas pipeline. The government encourages investors to develop LNG terminals for import of LNG and regasification of LNG. In addition, it aspires for developing 1000 LNG refueling stations across all the major “highways, industrial corridors, and mining areas”. LNG refueling stations development would attract investment of Rs. 100 billion soon. The first 50 LNG refueling outlets shall be along the golden quadrilateral and major national highways [22]. Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas must strongly push for including natural gas in the GST regime. Such a move will bring tax rationality and benefit customers across the country.

The presence of an active and independent regulator in the form Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board serves as an enabler for faster progress of the natural gas market in India [4]. The regulator brings transparency and establishes fair competition.


10. Conclusions

India’s under-penetrated natural gas market will expand till it saturates. There are plenty of scopes for expansion in the north-east, eastern, and southern India. City gas distribution will be a prime driver for natural gas market growth. The existing infrastructure including LNG importing terminals, pipelines, and refueling stations needs a boost. Despite the emergence of multiple green energy options, the share of natural gas will increase. The government’s progressive policies including viability gap funding for cross-country pipeline and promotion of LNG/hydrogen-CNG as transport fuels will spur natural gas market developments. Additionally, the government is committed to removing the bottlenecks to enhance penetration of natural in the country. Natural gas will play a critical role in developing India’s green economy.


Authors are thankful to the editors and anonymous reviewers for their comments and observations.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


BtuBritish thermal unit
BCMbillion cubic meter
CGDcity gas distribution
CNGcompressed natural gas
LNGliquefied petroleum gas
MMTPAmillion tons per annum
MMSCMDmillion standard cubic meter per day
PNGRBPetroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board
Rs.Indian rupee
TCMtrillion cubic meter
CARECredit Analysis & Research Ltd


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Written By

Akhoury Sudhir Kumar Sinha, Sanjay Kumar Kar, Umaprasana Ojha and Marriyappan Sivagnanam Balathanigaimani

Submitted: October 4th, 2021 Reviewed: October 21st, 2021 Published: February 9th, 2022