LONDON India is studying the potential of shale gas and is watching safety and technology developments in other countries closely, the deputy chairman of its planning commission said on Thursday.
"We are exploring the potential of shale gas for India and we are watching (safety) concerns very carefully," Montek Ahluwalia told reporters at a news conference following a two-day clean energy ministerial meeting in London.
"We have no current programme for going into fracking in a big way, but we are looking at the scientific research and if we have an opportunity that makes sense (it could happen)," he added.
The development of shale gas extraction could change world energy markets, offering potentially ample supplies that would otherwise tighten in coming years.
In the United States, where hydraulic fracturing or fracking drilling technology is most widely used, it could turn the country from a net importer of natural gas to a net exporter.
But shale gas extraction requires large amounts of water and chemicals, injected in the fracking process, and environmental concerns have led some governments to ban its use or put development programmes in place.
Although India is not currently planning large investments, it has received interest from some companies, Ahluwalia told Reuters, adding that independent estimates on India's shale gas reserves vary enormously.
Ahluwalia also said a hurdle to shale gas extraction for India would be the lack of adequate water resources and the pursual of renewables like wind and solar might be more attractive as the costs of such technology has fallen in the past few years.
"There is much more potential in solar and wind technology than we thought 10 or 12 years ago," Ahluwalia added.
(Reporting by Nina Chestney and Karolin Schaps, editing by William Hardy)