Vadodara: ONGC's pilot underground coal gasification (UCG) project in Gujarat, which was initiated in 2005, is yet to get approval from the Union Coal Ministry, a top company official said here.

The UCG project in Surat is pending on account of the Mining Exploration Licence (MEL), ONGC Director (Exploration) S R V Rao said. He was in the city yesterday for annual review of western onshore basin at its headquarters here.

ONGC had sought mining licence in huge quantity of land in Vastan mine block located near Surat about three years ago but it has not been successful in getting it.

The company has been eager to implement the project soon but it has hit a road block. Before moving the concerned ministry for MEL, ONGC had completed all surveys needed for it, Rao said.

Also, Coal India limited (CIL) and ONGC had inked an MOU in November 2005 and the project was scheduled be commissioned in 2009-2010.

Official sources said that ONGC had joined hands with Russia's Skochinsky Institute of Mining (SIM) for technology transfer as several UCG projects have been successful there.

In UCG procedure, oxygen and steam is injected into coal seams that ignite coal. This converts solid coal into a mix of gases, liquids and ash. The gas can be taken out from coal seams, which comprises of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane among others.

The natural gas that comes out can be used for power generation as wells as feed stock for petrochemical industry, sources said.

ONGC intends to take such UCG projects to other parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan provided the pilot project takes off.

It is aiming to go commercial by producing about two billion cubic metres of synthetic gas per annum from this Vastan field which has enough reserves to last for about 30-40 years, sources said.

The calorific value of synthetic gas is 10 times lower than natural gas.