Gas Pricing Reform in India – Implications for the Indian gas landscape
Most discussion on the future of the market for internationally traded gas focuses on the ‘swing towards Asia’. Specifically, China and India, the world’s two most populous nations, are frequently highlighted as major drivers of future demand. Yet, there is considerable ambiguity over the assumptions underpinning this observation, particularly with regards to India. In fact, despite several years of relatively high economic growth in the last decade, it is difficult to make a confident and accurate assessment of India’s potential as a major Asian gas market. Official government forecasts carried out within a central planning framework tend to be overly optimistic, whereas projections by multilateral organisations tend to be cautious but confused. The reason for this lack of clarity is that the Indian gas sector is broadly characterised by two moving parts: one which has prices and quantities set by the Indian government, and another which utilises gas at market (LNG import) prices. Additionally, there is some overlap between the two, further complicating attempts to assess these as separate markets. The lack of a clear pricing signal therefore makes it difficult to determine future levels of demand.
This paper analyses whether or not recent reforms to the pricing of domestic gas could potentially change the Indian gas landscape by making price signals clearer. It investigates three important questions: First, could gas pricing reforms reverse the recent decline in domestic production? Second, could they lead to new upstream investments in gas? Finally, what is the impact of the reforms on downstream consuming sectors? The paper begins with an analysis of the 2014 gas pricing reform, followed by an overview of demand, supply and consumption. It then delves into the three broad questions posed above, and concludes with observations on whether reforms to gas ‘price formation’ (as opposed to ‘price level’) in India are in fact achievable, or whether they will continue to elude successive governments, and on whether India can ever be Asia’s next gas market ‘Goliath’.