Natural Gas Sector Reform in India: Case Study of a Hybrid Market Design

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Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Working Paper #43

July 2005

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The state-owned Indian natural gas sector has been slowly moving towards deregulation for close to a decade. However, rather than wholly introducing free market forces into the existing state-managed sector, India has developed a separate, almost entirely decontrolled gas market alongside the existing sector.

The major challenge to complete gas sector reform that remains is how to transition gas users from the state-managed sector to the free market. This paper explains the origins of this hybrid market and its likely evolution.

The fertilizer and electricity sectors, which account for most gas consumption in India, are reviewed in detail. In both, while interlocking political forces have prevented full transition of the sector to the free gas market, some users have already made the transition. In electricity, parts of the sector, such as private power plants, are already shifting private gas supplies on their own because private gas, while more costly, is much more reliable. The ultimate viability of private gas in electricity and fertilizer production will depend on reforms within the offtaking industries.

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