Sunday, September 28, 2008

KG D6: Team Reliance Achieved It Under All Odds

September 28, 2008
By Syed Akbar

Over 2000 people, 12000 tonnes of equipment, 90 marine vessels
and waters as deep as 8000 ft.

Team Reliance has done it. The world's largest offshore oil and gas production
system under sea has been put in place in just 27 months with several interruptions in work due to frequent cyclonic storms and rough weather.
Yes, we are talking about Krishna Godavari basin's D-6 block in the Bay of Bengal, where Reliance Industries Limited struck the liquid gold and translated it into a full production system, fighting against all natural hazards, 50 km away from the coast of Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.
"This event is, no doubt, historic in itself. But there is even better news. For this is just a prelude. Its impact on the fortunes of India... will be enormous, contributing to foreign exchange and import bill savings of $20 billion."
This statement from Reliance Industries Limited chairman Mukesh Ambani, soon after the first few drops of crude oil were extracted from the Krishna-Godavari basin, simply sums up the exhilaration in the RIL camp that spent a little over two years on high seas and beneath the depths of the Bay of Bengal to achieve this rare feat. Yes, the moment was full of excitement and exhilaration as RIL's team of 2000
engineers, technocrats and supervisors disproved the naysayers of the world who had written off India's ability to produce its own oil and gas.
Four decades after India first produced its own crude oil at Bombay High, the Reliance team worked against all odds - storms, cyclones, low pressures, strong water currents - to build a huge oil and gas platform, which is nothing short
of building a high-rise building on the bed of ocean, with water all around and strong currents quite often hitting the men and machinery involved. The task is not simple given the fact that the Bay of Bengal, at its friendliest best, is the most violent host. Bay of Bengal is one of the few ocean spots where violent cyclones and storms are quite frequent.
"This accomplishment marks a strategic and emotional inflection point for every Indian. Getting to this epoch-making event has not been easy. Our people had to fathom the interplay of geology and oceanography. Drilling in uncharted waters under hostile weather, including frequent cyclonic conditions, is always hazardous. We have
operated an efficient supply chain system with sea and air logistics support. Essentially we created an entire production system 8000 ft under the sea. At the peak, we have over 90 sea-going vessels - to create a large production system under the sea," Mukesh Ambani said.
There's no adequate sub-sea data. Added to it is the low sea bed temperature of five degrees C, severe supply chain constraints and shortage of technical manpower. To achieve the marvellous feat earlier than the target, the engineers employed the state-of-the-art technology. Reliance deployed, Dhirubhai-1 FPSO, the first vessel of its kind in Indian waters with the capability to operate in water depths of greater than 1200 metres. It has features that can help withstand harsh sea environment.
From the time of its discovery, RIL has started production of oil in KG-D6
in just over two years making it one of the fastest green-field deep water oil development projects in the world.
The offshore block included the deployment of a 12,000 tonne control riser platform Dhirubhai-1, the floating production, storage and offloading vessel. The FPSO is capable of processing 60,000 barrels of oil per day and 15 million cubic feet per day gas and storing up to 1.3 million barrels of oil. The vessel is also equipped with a disconnectable turret mooring system, insulated manifold and short flexible flow lines, features that can ensure crude oil production even amid tough weather
Dhirubhai-1 is stationed at the oil production site and shuttle vessels are used for offloading oil from it. Later, the crude oil is transported to refineries. This eliminates the need for piping the oil to the shore for onward transportation
for purification.
RIL oil and gas chief executive officer PMS Prasad said working at the KG D-6 basin was quite a Herculean task even for the most daring of lots. "We had to shift people during storms.
Moreover, our men worked on the seabed to raise the equipment. Imagine building a huge complex or a high-rise building on the sea bed. This is what we have achieved and that too in a short span. World-wide it takes around a decade to produce oil from the time of its discovery. But we have broken the world record," Prasad said.

Open Source Drug Discovery: Now Everyone Can Contribute To Drug Research

September 28, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 27: Students, homemakers and common people can now rub shoulders with researchers, technocrats and scientists in India's race to discover new drugs to control a host of diseases afflicting its populations.
Thanks to a new initiative by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, anyone from any part of the world can contribute for the discovery of new medicines for major health problems like tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and Kala Azar. The Open Source Drug Discovery programme, to be launched formally in Hyderabad on Sunday
coinciding with the Human Genome Meeting here, aims at providing an opportunity to all and sundry to contribute their mite for discovery and development of new drug molecules and ultimately medicines.
The CSIR wants to make drug discovery a public domain and not limited to just a few multinational pharmaceutical companies. The drug molecules discovered and drugs developed through the OSDD initiative will be quite affordable and within the reach of the ordinary citizens, who otherwise do not have access to costly multinational
"Debilitating diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and Kala Azar are scars for the tropical countries. No multinational company will invest in drugs for these diseases, because the paying capacity of the afflicted population cannot meet
the expectations of profit. Market mechanisms fail, because the incentives
of innovation are absent. We have to design different paradigm and architecture to tackle the diseases of the common man and the poor man," said Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal.
Delivering the inaugural address at the Human Genome Meeting, organised by
Human Genome Organisation, on Saturday, Kapil Sibal said the OSDD was the raison detre for public funded research to continue in India and the tropical countries.
The Ministry of Science and Technology has drawn inspiration from Human Genome Organisation to conceive the collaborative platform for drug discovery for diseases, otherwise neglected by mainstream pharma industry. The OSDD programme, spearheaded by CSIR as a team-India consortium with global partnership, envisages making
affordable health a reality for the developing world.
"It harnesses the collaborative power of the internet to bring massive
computing ability into the drug discovery process. It is a landmark experiment in democratising research by allowing students, researchers, scientists, traditional healers, doctors, private sector or anyone who wants to participate in this drug discovery process," said Prof Samir Brahmachari, director-general of CSIR.
At present drug discoveries are made within the four walls of pharma laboratories. They maintain a high degree of secrecy and do not involve outsiders. Brahmachari said the OSDD programme was thought of to capture intelligent brains from around the world. He said once drug molecules are discovered, help of charitable organisations would be sought to fund the drug development process.
The programme also aims to apply the knowledge of pharmacogenomics to keep the cost of patent drugs quite low. "We want the system to be a novel web-enabled open source platform by utilising the creative potential of college and university students. The participants will get incentives for their contribution.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ambani strikes it rich in KG Basin: Oil Production Starts

September 22, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Mumbai, Sept 21: Reliance Industries Limited has commenced production of hydrocarbons in its KG-D6 block of Krishna-Godavari Basin pushing India towards energy independence.
RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani on Sunday announced that the initial crude oil production of about 5,000 barrels per day would be increased to 5.5 lakh barrels per day over the next six to eight quarters. ¡§A first of its kind hydrocarbons production from any deep water field in the country, Reliance KG-D6 will account for 40 per cent of country¡¦s current indigenous hydrocarbon production,¡¨ Mukesh said adding that the production from KG-D6 facility will save India an annual foreign exchange outflow of US$20 billion.
He said from the time of its discovery, RIL had started production of oil in KG-D6 in just over two years making it one of the fastest green-field deep water oil development projects in the world.
¡§This production has been achieved against challenges like difficult ocean conditions, lack of adequate sub-sea data, low sea bed temperature (5ƒ¿ C), severe supply chain constraints and shortage of technical manpower,¡¨ he said.
The KG-D6 Block of Reliance is located in the Bay of Bengal at a water depth of 8000 ft. and 50 kms from the nearest coast of Kakinada. With this production, the East Coast of India is set to emerge as a world class hydrocarbon hub. Reliance will also start its gas production in the next couple of months.
The production at KG-D6 blocks comes 40 years after Bombay High was discovered. ¡§This has huge significance for India¡¦s economic development, enabling India¡¦s farmers to access energy and drastically reducing pollution in cities and towns. It will also provide distributed power to urban and rural areas in a much shorter time than we are able to do at present,¡¨ he said.
India¡¦s current hydrocarbon oil and gas production is 1.3 million barrels of equivalent per day. With Reliance¡¦s contribution in the energy sector, the country¡¦s indigenous production of hydrocarbons will increase by over 40 per cent in the next 18 months.
Reliance¡¦s targeted production of 5,50,000 barrels per day of hydrocarbons can feed cooking gas to 100 million to 120 million households, reducing subsidy burden on the government.
¡§Now it is possible to provide natural gas to over 50 million two-wheelers, five million cars and 10 million trucks. It is now possible to provide distributed power generation for thousands of megawatts of power. This can meet the requirement of lighting for over 80 million households,¡¨ Mukesh said.
This landmark development culminates 27 months of painstaking efforts by over 2000 engineers and personnel. RIL has joined the elite club of Deep Water Operators, very few in the world. With this, RIL is also amongst the top 20 energy companies in the world. ¡§This will enable Reliance to create unprecedented value for our shareholders,¡¨ he added.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Megalithic site found: Hyderabad is 2500 years old

September 10, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 9: Hyderabad is not just 400 years old. Its history goes back to 500
BC, says the State Department of Archaeology.
Excavations carried out by the State Department of Archaeology and Museums revealed iron age burials in Hyderabad. "The history of Hyderabad goes back to the Neolithic period as some stone implements of the new stone age are recovered from Kethepalli village," according to Prof P Chenna Reddy, director of archaeology.
The department has also discovered an iron age site studded with Cairn Circles, also
called megalithic burials, close to the entrance of Ramoji Film City on Hyderabad-
Vijayawada national highway. These burials are located in a patta land, he said.
The burials, according to Prof Chenna Reddy, are spread in an extent of five acres in
survey No. 124 and are in the possession of a farmer, B Mallaiah. The burials date
back to 500 BC. "Unless systematic and archaeological excavations are carried out,
we cannot further evaluate on the details of these burial sites," he said.
Hyderabad, Secunderabad and surrounding areas harbour a good number of iron age
sites. Similar burials were discovered at Moulali, Hashmathpet, Kothaguda Botanical
Gardens and Lingampalli (University of Hyderabad).
The burials at Moulali were excavated by then department of archaeology of the
Nizam's Dominion in 1935 and the ones at Hashmathpet were opened by Birla archaeological and Cultural Research Institute during 1978. Both the places yielded
iron implements and pottery reflecting the material culture of the people of the iron
The department of archaeology reopened the burials at Hashmathpet and recovered
valuable artefacts including iron implements, human bones and pottery.
Buoyed by the success at these sites, the department took up excavation at Hayatnagar
on the Vijayawada highway and discovered the megalithic burials. The latest excavations take back the history of Hyderabad to at least 2500 years. Earlier, the
history of the city was linked to the Golconda fort and many believed that it was not
older than 1000 years.
"We will continue with the excavations at the new site as it has great potential from
the archaeological and historical point of view. We need to protect these sites before the real estate boom eats into them, erasing the early historical records
of Hyderabad," he said.
The archaeological team that took up the excavation included Mr Aleem, conservation
assistant and Mr A Janardhan Reddy, assistant stapathi, besides Prof Chenna Reddy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hippocampus tales: NIO scientists breed Indian Seahorse in captivity

September 8, 2008
By Syed Akbar
In a major ecological exercise a team of scientists at the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, has successfully produced seahorses in captivity. The success of NIO's captive breeding of this endangered marine species will help in populating Indian and other oceans with seahorses or Hippocampus. A notable feature of seahorses is that the male of the species gives birth to young ones.
The NIO researchers have selected Indian Seahorse, Hippocampus kuda, for the experiment since its population has been dwindling. Hippocampus kuda or Yellow Seahorse belongs to the fascinating group of fishes of the genus Hippocampus. It is also called Spotted Seahorse.
Senior NIO scientist Dr Rayadurga Ananta Sreepada told this correspondent that they had collected juvenile seahorses from the wild. The juvenile animals were grown to maturity and allowed to form pair bonding, mate, complete gestation and spawning under captive conditions through manipulation of feed and environmental conditions. The seahorse project is funded by the Department of Biotechnology.
"Two male seahorses delivered 320 juveniles. Both the daddies and the babies are being taken care at the Aquaculture Laboratory - the Fraternity Home. The juvenile
seahorses are presently passing through a very critical of their survival since they shift from pelagic phase to the settlement phase. This 15 days period will end on September 13," he said.
Seahorses are remarkable with their unusual body shape and their biology, with males incubating the fertilised eggs in a brood pouch. They belong to the family,
Syngnathidae. They inhabit many ecologically sensitive aquatic habitats, including coral reefs, sea grasses, mangroves and estuaries, with most species in the Indo-Pacific and western Atlantic region.
"Extraordinary myths surround them. Ironically, it is their very popularity that places them in danger, as they are sought in large numbers for use in traditional
medicine, aquarium fish and curios (souvenirs). It has been conservatively estimated that at least 20 million seahorses (56 million tonnes) are being caught annually for the traditional medicine market," Dr Sreepada said.
More than one million live sea horses are caught for aquarium trade, mostly destined for sale in North America. India was contributing to about 30 per cent of global
seahorse trade until 2001 and now all species of seahorses have been brought under the schedule I of the Wild Life Act, 1972 to prohibit exploitation.
The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species has placed all species of seahorses under Appendix II which means that captive breeding could be undertaken
for stock enhancement programme and aquaculture purposes.
"We are confident that standardisation of hatchery rearing and mass culture of seahorses will be helpful in their conservation, of reproduction meeting ever-increasing demand in traditional medicine and marine aquarium trade. In addition, development of such technology will provide an alternative livelihood or supplementary income to the fisher folk and self-help groups in the coastal areas of the country," he said.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Nuclear Suppliers Group's waiver of embargo against India: Hyderabad to play a global role

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 6: The Nuclear Suppliers Group's decision to lift trade embargo on India will push Hyderabad onto the international nuclear map with the city-based Nuclear Fuel Complex and private companies playing a major role in the world atomic market.
The NFC, controlled by the Department of Atomic Energy, will emerge a key player in nuclear energy not only in India but also in the international arena. The Complex has been single-handedly meeting the requirements of the country's nuclear energy needs despite NSG's trade embargo on India during the past 34 years. And it has built up self-reliance in nuclear fuel sector by encouraging private companies to assist it through certain critical components required for nuclear power stations.
"With the lifting of the embargo NFC may go global. It has the capacity to provide critical support to anyone in the world. In fact, NFC is the only institution of its kind in the world where natural and enriched uranium fuel, zirconium alloy cladding and reactor core components are manufactured under one roof starting from the raw materials," says a senior official of the Complex.
Moreover, Hyderabad has several ancillary units supplying components to NFC and other defence organisations. Now that decks have been cleared, these firms are likely to take up international deals, boosting India's role in the world nuclear sector. NFC and its supporting firms have already established their credentials by producing the excellent quality of nuclear fuel that enabled India's nuclear power plants to reach a global record of more than 90 per cent plant load factor. "NFC is ready to meet the increased demand for nuclear fuel that is expected to arise in the future," the official said. Already NFC is supplying 700 tonnes of uranium oxide to
the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited.
NFC has the capability to supply sub-assemblies and all stainless steel hardware including tubes, bars, sheets and springs for operating the fast breeder test reactor and prototype fast breeder reactor. The special materials plant at NFC manufactures high value, low volume, high purity special materials like tantalum, niobium, gallium and indium for applications in electronics, aerospace and defense sectors.
"A notable feature at the Nuclear Fuel Complex is that, apart from in-house process development, a lot of encouragement is given to the Indian industry for fabrication of plant equipments and automated systems," the NFC's official website points out highlighting the role the local industry is going the play in the area.
The Uranium Oxide Plant processes crude uranium concentrate to pure uranium di-oxide powder while the Ceramic Fuel Fabrication Plant produces sintered uranium oxide pellets. It has also the facility to process imported enriched uranium hexafluoride to enriched uranium oxide powder. Now this facility will get a boost in the post-NSG waiver.
According to sources, Hyderabad-based industries including NFC are likely to generate revenues of about Rs 500 crore initially once they go global. Many more private players are likely to join the race as India alone is poised to generate 20,000 mw nuclear power in the next 12 years. Moreover, it will also bring in foreign investments leading to mushrooming of nuclear power plants. Also Andhra Pradesh has sufficiently large resources of nuclear material and the State may attract investments once uranium mining in the State takes a concrete shape.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Menstrual blood can save a life

September 1, 2008
By Syed Akbar
After the placental blood, scientists have now turned their attention to the
menstrual blood. Scientists have clinically established that blood that flows
during the monthly periods in women has several health benefits including the unique property to improve blood circulation and create different tissues.
In short, menstrual blood can save life in certain critical health problems.
Menstrual blood gets its properties mainly because of the presence of endometrial regenerative cells. Using mouse models with peripheral artery disease, a team of scientists at Indiana University, USA, has demonstrated that endometrial regenerative cells when injected into mice suffering from blocked circulation, will restore the blood circulation and functionality.
The team was led by senior vascular surgeon Dr Michael Murphy. The researchers have also found out that ERCs from menstrual blood are quite helpful in treating critical limb ischemia. Presently, there is no medical or surgical treatment to the problem. Menstrual blood is the only hope for such patients.
According to Dr Murphy, who has already demonstrated clinical trials with adult stem cells, ERCs from menstrual blood are capable of forming into at least nine different tissue types, including heart, liver and lung. "The advantage of ERCs is that they can be used in an off the shelf manner, meaning they can be delivered to the point of care, do not require matching, and are easily injectable without the need for complex equipment," he points out.
In another research study led by Dr Xiaolong Meng of the Bio-Communications Research Institute in Wichita, Kansas, USA, the menstrual blood contains a new type of stem cells that hold a great medical potential. The new stem cells can be reproducibly isolated from menstrual blood drawn from healthy women.
Unlike the stem cells drawn from bone marrow or placenta which have side effects including chances of rejection by recipients, those from the menstrual blood have the potential to generate tissues fast and effectively. The menstrual blood will help overcome such problems.
The scientists from Kansas said menstrual blood contains cell types which can be cultured in the laboratory. They replicate almost 70 times in a very rapid time span. This replication rate is far faster than cells which are presently drawn from placental or umbilical cord blood and bone marrow. The growth rate of ERCs is one lakh times more than those from the placental blood.
"Just 5 ml of menstrual blood collected from a healthy woman will provide enough cells which after two weeks of culture provided beating heart cells," he said.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Global warming to create severe rice shortage

September 1, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 29: There will be severe shortage of rice as average temperature goes up due to global warming.
A study on the "effect of climate change on rice" carried out by the city-based Directorate of Rice Research has revealed that global warming will reduce the potentiality of photosynthesis in paddy, thereby bringing down the overall yield. Photosynthesis is a natural process through which plants use the sunlight to prepare
their food. Any change in the photosynthesis process will affect flowering and thus yields.
This is the first time that a study has been conducted on how global warming and consequent climate change will hit rice yields. The study was conducted by DRR in association with the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture.
The DRR-CRIDA team selected one month old seedlings of rice genotypes (Krishna Hamsa, rice hybrid DRRH2). They then raised them in pots in ambient atmosphere. Later, the saplings were transferred into open top chambers with control (ambient) or 550 ppm carbon dioxide enriched atmosphere using the automated system facility developed in the CRIDA.
The team imposed carbon dioxide treatment everyday from 9.30 am 4.30 pm and continued the process till flowering. At flowering, they measured leaf characteristics such as photosynthesis, stomatal (leaf opening) conductance, transpiration, air and leaf temperatures. Soil samples were also analysed for differences in nematode (useful worms) population.
The results showed that, irrespective of genotypes, there was a reduction in photosynthesis by about 25 per cent. There was also reduction of 36-38 per cent in leaf conductance and transpiration rates under elevated carbon dioxide condition as compared with the control. Differences between air and leaf temperatures under
ambient and elevated carbon dioxide conditions were eight per cent and 12 per cent,
The study found that with increased concentration of carbon dioxide, there was a reduction in nematodes in the soil.