The research focus of Center of Helium and Geothermal Research at NIT Durgapur is namely three fold (i) harnessing helium gas from geothermal resources (hot springs) (ii) exploration of geothermal power (iii) monitoring of earthquake precursory signals.
Helium consumption in India is approximately 0.15 billion cubic feet, about 2.3% of global helium consumption, most of which is imported from USA. Poland and Qatar are among the countries that produce helium, but have till the date limited export capability. India is entirely dependent on USA for tapping helium. USA is already turning off helium supplies to the outside world. The immediate implication is the serious consequences on our space, defense and atomic energy programme along with a whole host of other areas such as MRI’s medical equipment that will plunge into despair and come to a grinding halt. The switch off also implies serious problems to our R&D programme in the Indian laboratories. In the light of this, we have far too long taken the Micawberish attitude that something will turn up to save the situation. However, no comprehensive effort has been undertaken so far to map and extract helium in the country in a large scale. It is essential therefore for India to seriously initiate its own programme to produce helium in a large scale, in order to be reasonably self-reliant. British geologist identified more than three hundred hot springs in India. Out of over 300 hot springs scattered throughout the country many release gases enriched with helium (concentration > 1.0 vol.% ). On the other hand all the known natural petroleum gas fields in India are lean in helium (0.05 vol.% in average). And to recover helium from natural petroleum gas, a host of allied factors need to be taken into account including the natural petroleum gas well life-time, before a helium extraction unit can be set-up. As an alternate measure, exploring helium extraction from geothermal areas appears promising because of higher helium concentrations (1.0 vol% in average in hot spring gases, 20 times higher than helium concentration in natural petroleum gases) available for virtually inexhaustible time-scale durations (geological time scale). It is always economical to recover helium from a gas source having high helium content with high flow rate.
These hot springs may also be utilized as a source of geothermal power - a vital source of energy (green energy) still completely ignored in India. The thermal energy of the solid earth originates from the primordial heat locked up within its interiors during the formation of the planet, along with subsequent heat generated during geologic time on account of the radioactive decay of the isotopes in the elements of Uranium and Thorium series. High temperature and pressure within the earth cause rocks to melt. This is known as magma. Because it is lighter than rock, magma rises up and heats the rocks above. This is a heat source. It is known as geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is more easily accessible in areas where there are hot springs.However, no comprehensive effort has been undertaken so far to map and harness geothermal energy in the country. It is thus essential and timely for India to seriously initiate its own programme to generate geothermal power in a large scale. Geothermal electricity is grid interactive and has no dependence on meteorological parameters unlike wind or solar energy. Geothermal resources can sustain for long time. The most important aspect is that environmental impact of the geothermal power plant is negligible. The geothermal zones of India have a moderate to high geothermal gradient (47-1000 C) and heat flux (78-468 mW/m2). There are vast regions in the country that are characterised with high geothermal gradient (> 600 C) and high heat flux (> 200 mW/m2) and these geothermal zones could well utilized for generation of green power.
In this context a three year R&D project has been taken up by NIT Durgapur for detailed investigation towards large scale extraction of helium and geothermal energy at the Bakreswar-Tantloi geothermal region lying across the border districts of Birbhum in West Bengal and Dumka in Jharkhand.Both the idea of “extraction of helium in large scale” and “geothermal power” at Bakreswar-Tantloi geothermal area is complementary to each other. Helium and geothermal heat is coupled to each other. Both of them are produced from common source of uranium and thorium, present in the crustal rock and also in mantle. Hot spring with sizeable helium content in the emanating natural gas should in principal lead to large natural heat source not too far away from the surface of the earth. This is a fact especially so if one compares the depth to which one has to drill in areas where there is no hot spring with escaping natural gas. Therefore, a common deep drilling (~300-800 m deep) at Bakreswar-Tantloi geothermal area could be used to tap both the helium sources and geothermal resources.
Apart from this, the center is also actively involved in research on monitoring of earthquake precursory signals through geochemical and geophysical techniques. So far four monitoring laboratories are operated by NIT Durgapur at different corners of the country. Themonitoring stations are placed in dissimilar geological environments and in different seismic zones of the country.The names and locations of the laboratories are as And the data analysis centre is situated at
Dept. of Physics, NIT Durgapur, Durgapur, West Bengal
Different kind of instruments such as gas chromatograph, radon monitor, seismometer etc. is installed at the said laboratories to collect the geochemical and geophysical data.The recorded data are sent to the data analysis centre through VSAT internet connectivity for further analysis. Details of the Projects Sl. No Title Duration Amount Investigators Sponsoring Agency 1 Monitoring & Exploration of Helium and Geothermal Power at BakreswarTantloi Geothermal Area 2014-2017 92.00 Prof. B. Sinha, HomiBhabha Professor., DAE, VECC, Kolkata NIT Durgapur (Govt. of India, MHRD funded) 2 Earthquake Precursory Study at Bakreswar (WB), Tantloi (Jharkhand), Baratang (A&N Islands), TattaPani (J&K) 2014-2015 59.304 2013-2014 16.00
1. Thermal spring site at Bakreswar, Birbhum, West Bengal
2. Thermal spring site at Tantloi, Dumka, Jharkhand
3. Thermal spring site at TattaPani, Rajouri, Jammu & Kashmir
4. The mud volcano at Baratangisland, Andaman & Nicobar islands
(in INR, lakhs)
(3 years initially)
Prof. T. Kumar, Director, NIT Durgapur
Prof. A. Gangopadhyay,, Dept. of EES, NIT Durgapur
Prof. N. K. Roy, Dept. of EE, NIT Durgapur
Dr. K. Adhikari, Dept. of EES, NIT Durgapur
Dr. H. Chaudhuri, Dept. of Physics, NIT Durgapur
(One year initially)
And the data analysis centre is situated at Dept. of Physics, NIT Durgapur, Durgapur, West Bengal Different kind of instruments such as gas chromatograph, radon monitor, seismometer etc. is installed at the said laboratories to collect the geochemical and geophysical data.The recorded data are sent to the data analysis centre through VSAT internet connectivity for further analysis.
Details of the Projects
Monitoring & Exploration of Helium and Geothermal Power at BakreswarTantloi Geothermal Area
Prof. B. Sinha, HomiBhabha Professor., DAE, VECC, Kolkata
NIT Durgapur (Govt. of India, MHRD funded)
Earthquake Precursory Study at Bakreswar (WB), Tantloi (Jharkhand), Baratang (A&N Islands), TattaPani (J&K)