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Gas shortage to subside in next seven to 10 days

By Khalid Mustafa
December 26, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The gas shortage that gripped the country and swelled from the third week of December when CNG and industrial sectors were disconnected to accommodate the domestic sector is likely to continue for seven to 10 days more as the required actions are being taken.

“We are in the process to increase LNG supply up to 1.1 billion cubic feet per day,” Nadeem Babar, adviser to Prime Minister on Petroleum, told The News. He said in Punjab, the gas shortage will be addressed in 10 days and the industry will be reconnected for the gas supply within few days. “We are providing 12 per cent more gas than last year. The demand has gone up much more than that because of long and extended cold spell.”

“General Industry and CNG sector in Punjab and CNG in Sindh are not getting gas since December 19. More importantly, it has become more difficulty to meet the export orders,’ the APTMA says. “We have intimated to the government about the low pressure in gas supply because of which industrial activities have massively slowed down which will adversely impact the exports growth,” Shahid Sattar, executive director of APTMA said. The top official at the Petroleum Division said the gas crisis brewed this time mainly because of the massive rise in the domestic sector demand. “Although we have increased the gas supply by 12 per cent more this time but the demand of the domestic sector has increased much beyond 12 per cent on account of cold wave in general in the country, but in Punjab, KP and Quetta in particular.

Dispelling the impression that the government has not pre-empted the situation, he said: “We have arranged LNG more and increased the gas supply by 12 per cent to domestic sector.” He said last year, the CNG sector was shut down for an extended period and the industry for one month, but this time the government will not allow it to continue for more than 7 to 10 days.

However, another top official in the Petroleum Division said Sindh is not willing to buy LNG because of Article 158 and if it buys, the gas crisis in Sindh will be erased immediately. Sindh says that under Article 158, it has the first right to consume gas.

The official said the demand in Sindh has also increased manifold. And if the weather improves in Sindh, the gas crisis in that province will be solved within next 10 days. The official said the gas discovered in Sindh or Balochistan is allocated to the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited. The gas is coming to Punjab also because of old allocations, made more than 10 years earlier.

To a question, he said the total existing demand in the country stands at about 4.5bcf. “And we are supplying 4.3bcf.” He said if Sindh agrees to take LNG, its problem can be addressed.

“However, in the longer term, we need to add another pipeline which the government is working on and expects to conclude work within months. New private LNG terminals have been allowed and the government is close to finalizing a pipeline with the Russians. The ADB is assisting Pakistan in gas storage. The longer term resolution of supply in Punjab will take 2 years to resolve as a result of these projects.

The Sui Northern spokesperson, when contacted, said that last year, RLNG diversion to the domestic sector was around 150 MMCFD and this year it was planned to inject more than 250 MMCFD RLNG (more than 70 per cent increase) for the domestic sector under the government policy.

This year December is comparable to extreme January temperatures arising from climatic changes and Pakistan is the fifth biggest affected. This is beyond the control of anyone including the SNGPL and the government of Pakistan. Indigenous supplying is going down while LNG cannot be stored. Hence it has to be ordered in sufficient quantities. This is the only technique available for forecasting in the world. “We don't have any climate change models. The diversion to the domestic sector has increased more than double, which is now around 350 MMCFD. This consumption is equivalent to typical January numbers.”

The SNGPL said ample RLNG was arranged for this December. This sudden increase in consumption which couldn't have been forecast led to curtailment of sectors.

When asked why more LNG cargos are not arranged, the Sui Northern spokesperson said: “It is to understand that additional RLNG can only be arranged if ordered 90-120 days before when it is required. The SNGPL cannot order additional cargos and store them as there is no storage of gas in the country. Additional cargo if arranged and not offloaded in stipulated time will attract financial penalties and reputation issues in the international market. Each cargo cost more than Rs 5 billion. “We cannot blow the gas in the air and cannot be treated like natural gas.”

When asked for how long the gas crisis will continue and how many cargoes of LNG are due in January and February, the gas company said there is no shortage of gas for the domestic sector. Further, RLNG supplies will increase from tomorrow and the situation will improve in coming days. January has enough cargoes for over 400 mmcfd supply of RLNG. This is more than 25% increase over last time around and this increase is much more than the increase in domestic household over last year of only 5pc.

To another question about the gas volume in the pipeline and why the gas in Sindh is not available for CNG, industry and even the domestic sector, the spokesperson said the gas availability in Sindh is the scope of SSGC.

When pointed out the fact that in Punjab the gas is not available for CNG, general industry and even for export industry and posed a question for how long this situation will continue, he said that to comply with the socio-economic agenda of the government, gas is first made available for the domestic sector and CNG and general industry came below in merit. However, the SNGPL is supplying gas to zero-rated export-oriented companies round the clock.

He said the situation and line pack are already improving for the last 3 days. MOL is supplying 170 MMCFD system gas only against 315 MMCFD owing to the law and order situation since last couple of days, which is also draining gas. The general industry will be opened shortly as soon as the MOL situation is resolved and line pack improves. The domestic pressures are continuously improving. The line pack is around 4000 which had gone below 3800 earlier.

When asked about the demand of gas and its reservoir, he said currently, the city load is 1600 MMCFD which was around 1400. The domestic sector is consuming over 1100 MMCFD, which was only 850 MMCFD last December. In January last, the domestic demand touched 1100 MMCFD only. “LNG injection is around 1000 MMCFD and system gas is another 800 MMCFD.”