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India will soon be the most populous nation and is expected to have more than a billion middle-class citizens by 2030. Access to modern energy will be a critical driver of this growth, and over the next two decades, India’s energy demand is expected to grow the fastest in the world.
As India transitions to cleaner energy sources, the country is drawing up concrete emission-reduction plans consistent with making energy access more equitable and affordable. More lower-emission energy sources will make their way into India’s energy mix, displacing coal and other higher-emission fuels. One of these sources will be natural gas, which will play a significant role in India’s immediate energy future and long-term energy transition.
India is investing billions in growing gas infrastructure, adding more pipelines and import terminals, and expanding the City Gas Distribution network to make gas more accessible for households, industries and transportation. These are encouraging developments, since rapid growth in energy infrastructure is the only way to fully harness the promise of natural gas.
ExxonMobil has been India’s longstanding, reliable energy partner since pioneering the country’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) market at the turn of the millennium. Today, as the country transitions to a gas-based economy, we aim to be a catalyst in accelerating India’s gas access. That’s why we are advancing our innovative virtual gas pipeline (VGP) project with IndianOil and Chart Industries to the pilot stage. VGPs have strong potential to accelerate Indian industry’s gas transition by connecting industrial customers with gas-based energy in the shortest possible time.
Virtual pipelines work by transporting LNG in truck-sized, specially designed ISO containers that can bring lower-emission, gas-based energy to people or industrial hubs when and where needed. They are multimodal, which means we can move LNG tanks on existing roads or rails, float them on ships, or even combine those conveyances to reach the last mile. For example, you can move LNG tanks by ship up the coast, then put it on a railroad to move it farther into the country, and then have trucks carry it the rest of the way. This means you don’t have to wait for physical pipelines – gas can now be dropped off at your doorstep.
Another key benefit of virtual pipelines is that they are future-flexible. They can connect users to natural gas now and also adapt to future conditions. If a physical pipeline eventually connects an area jump-started by virtual pipelines, we can redeploy the virtual pipeline equipment to the next area needing gas. This flexibility allows your energy network to develop and optimise over time while retaining the value of your mobile gas delivery equipment.
Supply innovations like VGPs could be a real advantage for emerging economies, where burgeoning energy demands could outpace growth in energy infrastructure. Additionally, remote locations, challenging terrain, weather and basic economics can disproportionately impact who gets energy and when. In countries like India that have shifting populations, with people migrating across the country for work, there’s a continuous challenge in making smart energy investments where the demand is, and also where the demand will be. That’s why ExxonMobil believes that VGPs are one of the solutions to India’s unique energy challenges.
Our VGP initiative also aims to maximise the benefits of investing in gas. It has solid potential to stimulate new opportunities to manufacture essential LNG equipment locally. It’s an area India could excel at, given the country’s outstanding technical skills and growing manufacturing capabilities. In fact, India can perfect the supply chain elements and lead global manufacturing for this sunrise sector. That’s the kind of value we want to create for India, so that the country’s gas transition pays long-term dividends.
Another area where gas can deliver for India without the wait is transportation. We are keen to support India’s vision for cleaner transportation and are working to advance opportunities for LNG into heavy commercial vehicles.
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