BP plc and Reliance Industries Ltd. have ramped up production from the first of a trio of ultra-deepwater natural gas fields offshore India that could meet the country’s rapidly expanding energy needs and reduce the need for imports.

The R Cluster project in Block KG D6 is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) off the east coast of India. Satellites Cluster is set to come onstream in 2021, followed by the MJ project in 2022.

Peak gas production from the three fields is forecast to be around 1 Bcf/d, or 30 million standard cubic meters/d (MMcm/d) by 2023.

The three fields together could meet 15% of India’s gas demand by 2023 and account for 25% of total domestic production, sharply reducing the need for liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports. 

“This start-up is another example of the possibility of our partnership with Reliance, bringing the best of both companies to help meet India’s rapidly expanding energy needs,” BP Group CEO Bernard Looney said. “Growing India’s own production of cleaner-burning gas to meet a significant portion of its energy demand, these three new KG D6 projects will support the country’s drive to shape and improve its future energy mix.”

The field is expected to reach plateau gas production of nearly 13 MMcm/d) in the coming year. It would produce from a subsea production system tied back to the existing KG D6 Control & Riser Platform (CRP) via a subsea pipeline.

Reliance operates the field with a 66% stake; BP holds the minority interest.

The partnership with BP “combines our expertise in commissioning gas projects expeditiously, under some of the most challenging geographical and weather conditions,” Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani said. “This is a significant milestone in India’s energy landscape, for a cleaner and greener gas-based economy. Through our deep-water infrastructure in the Krishna Godavari Basin we expect to produce gas and meet the growing clean energy requirements of the nation.”

India’s growing energy needs “require rapid scaling across a wide spectrum of energy sources and technological solutions,” BP noted. India is the world’s third largest primary energy consumer today, according to BP’s Energy Outlook. The country’s primary consumption is set to more than double by 2050.

“However, primary energy consumption per capita is significantly lower than most countries, indicating significant inequities in energy consumption,” BP noted. 

“Gas consumption is 60 billion cubic meters/d (165 MMcm/d), and more than 50% is imported.”

With rising gas imports, Intercontinental Exchange Inc. earlier this month launched the West India Marker LNG futures contract. The first trade occurred between Glencore and Total SE. 

India also imports about 80% of its oil. 

BP and Reliance also have formed a retail, aviation fuels and mobility alliance to incorporate and build on a fuel retailing network of more than 1,400 sites across India. The partners aim to grow to up to 5,500 sites over the next five years. The joint venture also includes Reliance’s aviation fuels business.

BP noted that India “is expected to be the fastest growing fuels market in the world over the next 20 years, with the number of passenger cars in the country estimated to grow almost six-fold over the period.”