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Nida R. Farid
January 7, 2019

Gas Crisis: A Wastage Problem


Nida R. Farid
Mon, Jan 07, 2019

The energy crisis is erroneously seen as a supply crisis. It is, however, a wastage problem. The energy flow diagram I compiled for Pakistan in 2014 showed Pakistan was wasting 83% of the primary energy (crude oil, natural gas, etc.) supplied by the time it converted to useful services like light, cooling, cooking, transport, etc.

The biggest wastage is of natural gas. This is tragic considering the immense gas load-shedding across Pakistan and our expensive LNG imports.

The largest wastage of gas comes from the domestic and power sectors.

Domestic Sector

The domestic sector consumed 6.8MTOE of natural gas in 2016-17 compared to 3.9MTOE of electricity. Gas was mainly used for hot water for showers and a small amount for cooking (my 8-person household uses 18m3/month on cooking 3 full meals daily). Compare that to electricity, which ran fans, lights, refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, water pumps, TVs, computers, etc.

Gas Leakages on Consumer/Demand Side

There are no current estimates of the ratio of gas leakages on the consumer side. My home had 38% leakage, my driver 70%, my engineer 50%. Several of my relatives had no leakage. So, average leakage per household may be between 15-30% on the consumer side.

Assuming average leakage across all sectors is 15%, like the leakage on the supply side, that is 209 million MMBTU wasted, costing $2.25 billion yearly for LNG imports.

Although natural gas is cleaner to burn than coal or petrol for local pollution, the global warming potential of methane released into the atmosphere is 84 times that of CO2 over a 20-yr horizon. Any leakage on the supply and consumer side is drastically increasing our impact on global warming. Experts recommend leakage to be less than 1.4% to balance local pollution relief with global warming impacts.

Leakage and efficiency improvements are usually consumer-owned decisions to reduce utility bills. However, Rs.121/MMBTU in the lowest slab is too cheap to encourage efficiency. We are teaching the masses that gas is a cheap resource to be wasted.

Someone paying Rs.250 monthly will not pay Rs.1000 to fix a gas leakage that reduces his bill to Rs.125. To that domestic consumer, the leakage costs only Rs.125 monthly. But that is a leakage of 0.9MMBTU, which Pakistan pays Rs.1500 monthly to import as LNG!

The government has several options to reduce this leakage.

  1.  The lowest slab rates must be at least doubled to encourage consumers to identify and close leakages. This tariff increase is needed to teach our citizens that gas is not a cheap commodity to be wasted.
  2. SNGPL/SSGC should perform annual gas leakage checks for all domestic consumers (currently, consumers have to report a leakage). The following graph (based on Karachi) can be used to identify households with potential leakages. The government can pay SSGC and SNGPL for checking and fixing leakages. This method, although effective in the short-term, will incur recurring costs endlessly since the mindset of the masses will be unchanged.
  3. In either scenario, a massive Gas Conservation Awareness Campaign should be launched to educate the masses, as well as to target the richer domestic consumers and industry/commercial sectors about gas leakages and other ways to save gas. SNGPL/SSGC have good information on their websites. However, we need a targeted campaign through media, including social media, to reach all citizens across Pakistan quickly. A couple of million dollars on awareness campaigns will encourage the masses to invest the hundreds of millions necessary for energy efficiency, thus, saving the country billions of dollars in LNG imports annually.
Maximum consumption for 8-person Upper-Middle Class Household in Karachi.

Leakages/UFG on Supply Side

In 2016-17, Pakistan produced and imported 34.6MTOE of natural gas. Only 29.3MTOE was delivered to consumers. If the current Unaccounted For Gas (UFG) and leakage on the supply side of 5.35MTOE (~15.4% loss) is reduced to 1.4%, then we can save 230 million MMBTU and $2.5 billion in LNG imports yearly.

Geyser efficiencies

Boiler efficiencies exceed 80% globally. However, geyser efficiencies in Pakistan range between 25-30%.

Hot water is heated not so much from the flame in the geyser, but mainly from the burnt gases when they are exhausted out through the hot water tank. Our conventional geysers are single-pass boilers. That means exhaust gases are vented in a straight line through the hot water storage tank from the burner. High efficiency boilers (>80% efficiency) have multiple passes through the storage tank, zig-zagging their way through the hot water storage (see attached image), transferring more heat before they exit the geyser.

In addition, the already inefficient single-pass geysers are also on 24/7. There are heat losses from the storage tank throughout the day, and the burner comes on frequently to heat the water even when no one is home. This results in higher consumption of gas or lower efficiencies.

SNGPL has made some improvements by introducing conical baffles (to slow down exhaust gases) and the Jal Bujh programmable timer device and app (created by Zaheen Machines) for geysers. Both of these offer savings of 25% each, and can be fitted on to existing geysers. However, these measures lack publicity. They are also not available through SSGC.

The government should immediately adopt these two measures and launch a nationwide campaign to spread their use, to reduce gas consumption by half for domestic and commercial consumers.

Instant gas heaters entering the Pakistani market have multiple passes and heat water only when required, thus promising 70-80% efficiency. They do have some challenges. The small diameter of their outlet pipe may cause loss of water pressure in homes with larger pipe sizes. Also, a household may need several instant heaters as there is no storage tank to support simultaneous showers. That means new gas connections for bathrooms and kitchen, leading to higher plumbing costs. Hence, these are good options for new housing.

If larger sized instant heaters (16-25litres) are made with multiple outlet pipe sizes, they would be ideal for most homes.

Hybrid instant gas heaters with small storage tanks are sold by companies like Ricoh Japan, and provide an almost limitless supply of instant hot water due to high efficiencies. However, these are not available in Pakistan.

Honestly, we don't need to import heaters from abroad if our manufacturers produce multiple pass, instant, highly-efficient, correctly sized geysers.

Increasing geyser efficiencies from 25% to 80% would save 161 million MMBTU and $1.9 billion in LNG imports yearly.

Power Sector

Natural gas can produce power in Simple Cycle (gas turbine only) with efficiencies crossing 40%. In Combined Cycle (steam turbine added to use waste heat from gas turbine), efficiencies can cross 60%. In Combined Heat & Power (like in our most efficient factories), efficiencies can cross 80%.

However, some public power plants (GENCOs) have efficiencies below 20%. Our worst performing power plants use 18600BTU to produce 1kWh. The latest CC power projects in Pakistan have 62% efficiency, using 5500BTU/kWh of electricity. That's why public power plants sell electricity at double price compared to private power plants (IPPs).

If our GENCOs match the average performance of IPPs, it would double the electricity produced by them, or halve the gas used. If all gas power plants in Pakistan, whether private or public, match the performance of the highest efficiency CC plant in Pakistan (62%), then gas consumption of power sector will fall from 452 million MMBTU to 239 million MMBTU, saving Pakistan $2.3 billion yearly in LNG imports. Alternately, the current electricity generation of 41,426GWh will nearly double to 78,300GWh using the same amount of gas.

By aiming for CHP plants, our savings would be even greater.

Gas preferences should be given to plants achieving the best efficiencies - GENCO or IPP. Preferential treatment should not be given to GENCOs with low efficiencies.


Industry consumed 7.99MTOE of natural gas last year. Industry can reduce gas consumption by installing high efficiency Combined Heat & Power (CHP). Some factories in Pakistan are achieving efficiencies in their energy supply of between 70-80%. If most factories adopt CHP and improve efficiencies to 80%, savings would be substantial.

Massive savings are possible on the demand side, when the electricity and heat (steam) produced by natural gas is used to run machines, motors, compressors, lights, cooling and industrial processes. By (a)eliminating compressed air and steam leakages, (b)adopting efficient machinery, motors, and appliances, and (c)better load management of processes, machines and motors, industrial energy demand can be drastically reduced.

Pakistan does not collect data on local industrial efficiency, but assuming the global average of 30% (Global Energy Assessment), we have tremendous room for improvement. Most likely, our efficiency is lower than global averages. If we double industrial efficiency through improving supply-side and demand-side efficiencies, industrial consumption of natural gas will fall by 181 million MMBTU, saving $1.95 billion in LNG imports annually.

Industry could be encouraged to improve by giving preferential rates to those achieving CHP efficiencies above 70%, or those showing minimum 5% demand side efficiency improvements every year.

Clearly, the above savings are far greater than current LNG imports. They are 71% of current annual natural gas consumption of about 1.4 billion MMBTU (29.3MTOE). By implementing the above measures to reduce gas wastage and inefficiencies, there will be enough gas to produce electricity, fuel industry, provide hot water to citizens and fuel transport. The extent of savings we achieve depends on how serious the government is to end this energy/gas crisis once and for all.

For too long we have focused on energy supply. However, energy efficiency is what will give us true energy security.

With an ever-widening trade deficit, we cannot afford to ignore the gross wastage of natural gas happening across Pakistan.

Nida Farid is a graduate in Aerospace Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Master in Mechanical Engineering from ETHZurich, Switzerland. Nida has extensive experience in aircraft manufacturing, wind energy, power segments and energy conservation.