Cairn India will partner US-based Halliburton to start shale exploration in the Lower Barmer Hill formation, Western Rajasthan.

Important points:

  • The key difference between shale oil and conventional crude is that the former, also called ‘tight oil’, is found in smaller batches, and deeper than conventional crude deposits.
  • Unlike conventional hydrocarbons that can be extracted from the permeable rocks easily, shale gas is trapped under low permeable rocks.
  • Extraction requires creation of fractures in oil and gas rich shale to release hydrocarbons through a process called hydraulic fracking/fracturing.
  • It requires a mixture of ‘pressurised water, chemicals, and sand’ (shale fluid) to break low permeable rocks and have access to the shale gas reserves.
  • Russia and the US are among the largest shale oil producers in the world, with a surge in shale oil production in the US having played a key role in turning the country from an importer of crude to a net exporter in 2019.
  • Shale oil and gas exploration faces several challenges other than environmental concerns around massive water requirements for fracking and potential for groundwater contamination.
  • Shale rocks are usually found adjacent to rocks containing usable/ drinking water known as ‘aquifers’.
  • While fracking, the shale fluid could possibly penetrate aquifers leading to methane poisoning of groundwater used for drinking and irrigation purposes.

Conventional and Unconventional Resources

  • Conventional oil or gas comes from formations that are straightforward to extract product from.
  • Extracting fossil fuels from these geological formations can be done with standard methods that can be used to economically remove the fuel from the deposit.
  • Conventional resources tend to be easier and less expensive to produce simply because they require no specialized technologies and can utilize common methods.
  • Unconventional oil or gas resources are much more difficult to extract.


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