NEW DELHI: India will by 2017 have a natural gas pipeline grid of 30,000-km connecting consumption centres to source of fuel, Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy said today. "We have a country wide network of 12,000 km of gas pipeline (and another) 12,000 km of pipelines are under construction," he said speaking at the 15th Foundation Day of Petronet LNG Ltd here. "With another 7,000 km of pipelines under bidding by the (oil regulator) Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB), we are looking at the emergence of a National Gas Grid of nearly 30,000 km in length by 2017, with a capacity of 875 million standard cubic meters per day (mmscmd), to take natural gas to different markets across the length and breadth of India," he said. Currently, the gas pipelines have a capacity to transport 230 mmscmd of gas. Stating that natural gas sector in India was on the verge of a takeoff, Reddy said natural gas is the fuel of choice since it is an efficient fuel for power generation, a cheaper feedstock for industries, a cleaner alternative fuel for vehicles and leads to an improvement in the quality of life. Considering its versatility and a smaller carbon footprint, the government has launched a drive to popularise the use of natural gas in the country. "Today, about 51 cities and towns are covered under the City Gas Distribution (CGD) as a part of which piped natural gas for cooking and CNG for the transport sector are being supplied," he said, adding PNGRB has plans to roll out CGD networks in over 300 geographical areas in the country. With domestic gas produced is limited, India's dependence on imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) is projected to grow. "To cater to the increase in imported LNG, we are in the process of increasing our current LNG handling capacity of 13.5 million tonnes per annum to more than three times by 2017," Reddy added. To cater to the huge expansion in the gas market, India is also pursuing trans-national gas pipelines such as the 1800 km long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Gas Pipeline. "In spite of the security hazards and a high threat perception, we are pursuing this ambitious project. After more than 18 months of hard negotiations, the four participating countries are close to initialising the Gas Sale Purchase Agreement (GSPA)," he said without elaborating.