Gas shortages set to rise despite LNG imports, NA body told

ISLAMABAD : Domestic consumers in Punjab will face severe gas shortages during the upcoming winter due to the curtailment of supply from 10pm to 5am daily, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Petroleum was informed here on Monday.

Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told a meeting of the committee, chaired by Chaudhry Bilal Ahmed Virk, that the worst year of gas shortages for consumers in Punjab had started.

He said that gas load management plan had been activated and gas shortages were being felt in certain areas of the province.

The minister expressed concern over priority access to natural gas enjoyed by provinces that were producers of the vital resource, claiming that this had been made possible under the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

“This restriction should not apply to domestic users,” the minister said, adding that the issue has importance because Punjab is the largest consumer of natural gas and the smallest producer.

The brunt of any curtailment, therefore, falls on Punjab since it has to do with whatever gas is left in the system after consumption by domestic, commercial and industrial cosumers in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He said that despite importing liquefied natural gas (LNG), the gas shortfall remained significant and the costly imported LNG would be consumed mainly by industrial consumers.

The minister said that the gas shortfall for domestic consumers was 40 per cent on the system of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) at present, which would further increase in the coming days.

SNGPL officials told media that the peak estimated in Punjab and KP was 1.45 billion cubic feet daily, whereas the average supply of gas is between 800 and 900 million cubic feet daily.

“But there are chances that the demand will go up as more areas are being covered by the SNGPL network whereas the supply usually declines in winter months that see peak demand.”

They listed various reasons for this, including technical reasons, as the gas flow is reduced due to a decling in temperature.

The committee was informed that the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority had allowed SNGPL to expand its network and execute development works.

“We are now giving connections to the applicants of 2014 and soon the applications of 2015 will be taken up,” Amjad Latif, SNGPL managing director, told the meeting.

Based on complaints by the members of the committee, it was decided that like electricity bills, both gas utility companies too would print the photo of gas meters showing the reading in all monthly bills.

The committee was also informed that India continued to be part of the TAPI gas pipeline project, which was expected to be operational by Dec 2019.

Interstate Gas Systems managing director Mubeen Saulat said that the project was on track and Turkmenistan had agreed to become the consortium leader by contributing up to 85 per cent of equity, while Afghanistan, Pakistan and India would take five per cent equity share each.

The TAPI Pipeline Company Limited was incorporated as an offshore company in the Isle of Man in Nov 2014.