Tuesday July 16, 2024

Gas transmission system at risk again

Line pack pressure was recorded on Sunday at 5.060bcfd which escalated on Monday to 5.185bcfd

By Khalid Mustafa
July 09, 2024
Representational image of flames and a gas stove. — AFP/file
Representational image of flames and a gas stove. — AFP/file

ISLAMABAD: At a time when the month of July’s 8 days have passed, the power division has reduced the use of imported gas in the RLNG-based power plants in Punjab to 418 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd) for power generation, causing the surge in the line pack pressure up to 5.185 billion cubic feet gas (bcfd), which puts the country’s national gas transmission system in jeopardy.

The line pack pressure was recorded on Sunday at 5.060bcfd which escalated on Monday to 5.185bcfd as the RLNG usage by the power division is being reduced.

In this calendar year, line pack pressure of over 5bcfd first hit the national transmission pipeline, in April, and May for many days and then in June for 1 day and now in July it started appearing from July 7.

An petroleum division official told The News, “The power division has reduced the use of RLNG from 858mmcfd on July 3, 2024, to 418 mmcfd on July 8 causing the emergence of the line pack pressure of 5.185mmcfd. This is an alarming situation, particularly for the Sui gas companies which manage the gas transmission system. When the line pack crosses 4.6 bcfd, the gas transmission system lands in the red zone. Now the line pack pressure has crossed the alarming figure of 5bcfd which is a real danger for the gas transmission system, as over the mark of 5bcf gas pressure mark, the gas transmission system becomes more vulnerable and the pipeline can burst anytime.”

The officials said, “The authorities have now started reducing the gas flows from the local gas fields in the SNGPL system to reduce the line pack pressure. This reduction in gas flows from local gas fields poses significant risks to maintaining the current local gas production level, but authorities are left with no option to ease the pressure.”

“The exploration and production companies have time and again cautioned the authorities that the practice of decreasing local gas flows to safeguard the gas transmission system was perilous. Sometimes, wells nearing depletion are compelled to reduce natural gas flows, causing irreparable damage, and they cannot recharge to their original flow levels. They require capital-intensive investment through artificial lift methods to resume production,” the official added.

The other option is left with the government to ask Qatar to reduce the number of LNG cargoes a month to maintain the line pack pressure from where Pakistan imports 9 cargoes a month under long-term agreements (one agreement for 15 years under which the 5 LNG cargoes are imported under the agreement of 13.37 per cent of the Brent and four cargoes are imported a month under 10.2pc of the Brent. The second agreement is for 10 years). We did not get any response from Qatar. The LNG supply agreements are inked to undertake or pay mode. So apparently for Qatar, it is very hard to accommodate Pakistan’s request as it will disturb the supply chains from Qatar to other buyer countries and clients and more importantly Pakistan cannot even sell the LNG cargo in the spot market as such a facility has not been mentioned in the contracts with Qatar.

So the government is left with the option to either increase the demand for gas and electricity by putting the country on the growth trajectory or reduce the gas flows from the gas fields with the risk that the gas wells may not be charged or operationalized with the natural gas pressure even after huge investments in dollars.

The Power Division says that it increases the use of RLNG for power generation when electricity demand escalates because of high temperatures. “Since the monsoon rains are underway in various areas of the country, the electricity demand has decreased so the use of RLNG for power generation has been reduced.” It also says that electricity generated through RLNG-based power plants is costly and it affects the overall basket price of the electricity and pinches the end-consumers. “We prefer to go for load-shedding instead of running the RING-based power plants on a full scale,” the senior official of the Power Division said.

According to the data as of July 8, 2024, the line pack pressure stood at 5.185bcfd which was on July 7 at 5.060bcfd. The local gas outflows were reduced on Monday to 670mmcfd from 715mmcfd on Sunday. The fertilising sector used the 89mmcfd gas on Monday. The average consumption by the industry (export and non-exports) stayed at 330mmcfd.