Prof. Vikram Vishal of IIT Bombay wins NASI Young Scientist Award for his work on tapping shale gas in India


Prof. Vikram Vishal, Assistant Professor at the Department of Earth Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, was recently awarded the prestigious NASI Young Scientist Award - 2018 for his work on unconventional hydrocarbons. He is one of the 20 researchers across the country, to be awarded the annual prize for exceptional research in the field of Electronics, Engineering, Chemical Sciences, Physical Sciences and Plant Sciences. 

The NASI Young Scientist award, instituted by the National Academy of Sciences India, recognises creativity and excellence in young scientists in India. The annual award carries a citation, a medal and Rs. 25,000 cash prize. Since 2006, 143 researchers across India have received the coveted award. 

“NASI is the oldest scientific academy in India, and unlike several awards, the Young Scientist Award is highly competitive as the awardees come from different disciplines. I feel great about receiving the award,” says an elated Prof. Vishal.

Prof. Vishal’s current research, funded by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, focuses on unconventional hydrocarbon reservoirs in India. Unconventional hydrocarbon reservoirs are sources of oil and gas, that needs to be extracted using techniques different from the conventional extraction of hydrocarbons. Examples of these hydrocarbons include shale gas (natural gas trapped within certain fine-grained, fissile rocks called shales), shale oil, gas hydrates (a solid ice-like form of water containing gas molecules) and coal bed methane. His work proposes to estimate the shale gas potential for India accurately. 

In their research, Prof. Vishal and his team of researchers mimic the conditions of the hydrocarbon reservoirs in their lab. They subject the collected shale samples to various conditions of temperature and pressure and estimate gas potential based on their observations. They predict a gas potential value of 25-30% more than that predicted by existing methods. 

“Current shale gas estimates in India are not supported by field studies or experiments and do not have validated numbers. In this aspect, India is capable of producing best estimates through in-depth studies”, shares Prof. Vishal, who is also a recipient of the INSA Young Scientist Award for 2017. A combination of specialized techniques and expertise helps us understand these unconventional oil and gas sources.

“The recent efforts by the Government of India to explore unconventional hydrocarbon reservoirs such as shale gas and gas hydrates coincides with my expertise and interests. As a scientist, this laid the foundation for me to collect samples from various prospective basins in India and estimate the potential of natural gas as a future energy source. Exploiting even a small proportion of these reservoirs can serve the country for centuries”, adds Prof. Vishal. His work could help the country’s aspiration of reducing oil imports in the next five years and increase the country’s share to the natural gas contribution by 15 per cent by 2022.