State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) on Monday said it will implement India’s maiden ‘Geothermal Field Development Project’ in Ladakh. The project aims to use heat generated by the earth’s core to generate clean energy.

“A memorandum of understanding (MoU) to formalise this has been inked by ONGC Energy Centre (OEC) with the Union Territory of Ladakh and Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh on February 6,” a press release issued by the company stated.

“This project of ONGC will put India on Geothermal Power map of the world,” it added.

Geothermal power plants have average availabilities of 90 per cent or higher, compared with about 75 per cent for coal plants.

“Geothermal resource development can revolutionise farming in Ladakh, which is now totally dependent for supply of fresh vegetables, fruits from outside the UT round the year. Further, direct heat energy applications make it most relevant to Ladakh.”

According to the statement, ONGC has planned the field development in three phases.

“Phase I involves exploratory-cum-production drilling of wells up to 500 metres depth and setting up of a pilot plant of up to 1 MW power capacity. Phase II would involve deeper and lateral exploration of geothermal reservoir by drilling of optimal number of wells and setting up of a higher capacity demo plant and preparing a detailed project report.”

“Phase III would involve commercial development of the geothermal plant.”

At present, Puga and Chumathang in eastern Ladakh are the most promising geothermal fields in India. “These areas were discovered in 1970s and initial exploratory efforts were made in 1980s by the Geological Survey of India (GSI). But development efforts to exploit geothermal energy by government as well as private agencies did not materialise for some reasons.”

Geothermal energy is an energy source that is stored in the form of heat beneath the earth’s surface, which is clean, renewable, sustainable, carbon-free, continuous, uninterrupted and environment-friendly. It is the only renewable energy available 24×7, round the year, to mankind not requiring storage and unaffected by day-night or seasonality variance.

India has seven geothermal provinces and a number of geothermal springs.