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Cover Story

Huge potential, not enough investment

Oct 11 - 17, 1999

Despite having vast energy resources, Pakistan has remained deficient in indigenous supply of energy products. Efforts are being made to exploit the oil and gas reserves with a view to build a strong indigenous production base. These efforts are aimed at achieving cost effectiveness and reducing import dependence through accelerated exploration of energy resources with minimum environment degradation.

Major sources of energy in the country consist of oil, gas, coal and electricity. Pakistan is highly dependent on imported crude oil and energy products to meet its requirements. The country spends huge amount of foreign exchange every year on this account. Although, the per capita energy consumption in Pakistan is comparatively lower than that in other developing countries, it has gradually increased over the last one decade. Imports of crude oil and energy products now account for nearly 1/5 of total imports of the country.


The commercial energy sources in the country, during July-March 1998-99, stood at 41.166 million barrels of crude oil, 551,392 million cubic feet (MCF) of gas, 12.369 million tonnes of petroleum products, 2.939 million tonnes of coal and 43,468 GWh of electricity. Comparative figures for the same period of 1997-98 were, 38,849 million barrels of crude oil, 526,628 MCF of gas, 13.38 million tonnes of petroleum products, 3.37 million tonnes of coal and 45,038 GWh of electricity. The per capita availability of primary energy supplies showed a rising trend over the years which indicates increasing demand for energy supplies to meet domestic, industrial, commercial and power generation requirements.

The recoverable reserves of crude oil, as on March 31, 1999, were estimated at 238 trillion barrels in the country. The average crude oil production at the end of third quarter of 1998-99 was 55,703 barrels per day. During this period the daily production was 20,770 barrels in the northern region and 34,934 barrels in the southern region. This indicates that southern region has higher potential for further exploration and development. Two large scale refineries also operate in the region which are the main consumers of indigenous crude oil.

The recoverable reserves of gas, as on March 31, 1999, were estimated at 21 trillion cubic feet in the country. The average daily production at the end of third quarter of 1998-99 was 2.012 MCF against 1.922 MCF for the corresponding period of 1997-98.

At present nearly 25 companies are actively involved in oil and gas exploration in the country. Most of them have come to Pakistan after the announcement of Petroleum Policy in early nineties. Acquiring a concession and commencement of drilling activity take two to three years. Therefore, the results of the activities will start appearing shortly.

The major companies currently engaged in exploration and development activities are Lasmo, Mari Gas, Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC), Union Texas, Pakistan Oilfields and Pakistan Petroleum. Pakistan Petroleum emerges to be the largest producer of gas followed by OGDC and Mari Gas. Union Texas emerges to be the largest producer of oil. It produces nearly half of total output of crude oil followed by OGDC. The two companies, if put together, contribute nearly 85 per cent of crude oil produced in the country.


(Barrels per day)

1997-98 1998-99


Northern 21,730 20,770

OGDC 12,347 10,719

OPL 1,503 2,035

POL 5,269 5,514

PPL 2,611 2,503

Southern 34,552 34,934

OGDC 9,175 11,566

UTP 25,295 23,290

PPL 82 78

Total 56,282 55,703



(Million Cubic Feet per day

Lasmo 68 72

MGCL 374 380

OGDC 457 422

POI 11 11

POL 23 31

PPL 822 939

UTP 162 157

Total 1,917 2,012


The Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDC) was established in 1961. It was entrusted the responsibility to undertake systematic exploration programme and to plan oil and gas projects. OGDC's concerted efforts were successful as they resulted in a number of major oil and gas discoveries. OGDC's major on-going projects, scheduled to be completed during the financial 1999-2000, include Uch gas development project. (Gas from this field will be used for power generation) Pirkoh compression project will add new supplies for Sui Southern Gas Company and Sui Northern Pipeline. All these projects will result in additional gas supply for power generation, crude oil and LPG production.

OGDC Production

1997-98 1998-99


Oil Barrels 5,518,217 6,107,288

Gas MMcf 128,887 115,958

LPG Tonnes 52,904 56,183

Sulfur Tonnes 17,879 12,854


Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) was incorporated in June 1950 with the main objective of conducting exploration, processing, development and production of Pakistan's oil and gas resources. PPL inherited all the assets and liabilities of Burmah Oil Company (Pakistan Concessions) Limited and commenced business in July 1952. Effective from September 1997, the GoP purchased the entire shareholding of Burmah Castrol in the Company representing 63.91 per cent of the Company's equity. Consequently GoP's shareholding which was 29.41 per cent in the Company's equity has now increased to 93.32 per cent. A total of 86 wells have been drilled and completed in the Sui field. Commercial production from this field commenced in 1955. PPL's share of production of gas etc. for the year 1997-98 in terms of energy was equivalent to about 135,000 barrels of crude oil per day. This results in a substantial saving of foreign exchange for the country.

Union Texas Pakistan Limited (UTP) does not have such a long history of operation in Pakistan, but, it is the largest oil producing company for the time being. It contributes nearly 50 per cent towards total crude oil produced in Pakistan. Recently it undertook a seismic survey of Karachi Concession for oil and gas exploration. The UTP, Edson International and Unocal made joint venture to undertake this survey. The three-year licence is now held by this group and the GoP. The hydrocarbon exploration in Karachi was not new. Two exploration wells have already been drilled in late eighties and the renewed interest was driven by the rapidly changing technology in the oil industry.

Pakistan Oilfields Limited (POL) is still producing oil from its well number one at Khaur discovered in 1915. The average daily production from its 100 per cent owned fields was 1,464 barrels of crude oil and 10 million cubic feet of gas besides solvent oil and LPG. The major share of production is from Meyal field. In order to increase its asset base value and increase its reserves the Company continues to investigate possibilities in international producing and/or exploration joint ventures. The Company has already entered into various joint ventures.

During the last financial year, upto March 31, 1999, total number of wells drilled was 22 including 3 wells of OGDC. Three gas fields were discovered by the private sector companies and no discovery was reported by the OGDC. However, by March 31, 1999 the OGDC had made 47 discoveries which included 28 oil, 12 gas and 7 condensate discoveries. The OGDC now produces approximately 38 per cent of crude oil and 24 per cent of gas produced indigenously.

Power sector emerged as the largest consumer of gas during July-Mach 1998-99 accounting for 29 per cent of total energy consumption. It was followed by fertilizer industry (26%), household (21.4%) industries (20.25%) and commercial consumers (8.5%).

For the present situation — heavy dependence on imports — only the policy planners of the country can be held responsible. For nearly 40 years, the policies which could have attracted foreign investment in oil and gas exploration, were missing. This kept the exploration and development activities at a disappointing low level. The first exploratory well was drilled as back as 1867 in the region but only 420 wells were drilled upto June 1996. Out of these, 123 wells were drilled during July 1990 to June 1996. There were 50 oil and 62 gas discoveries. The overall success rate comes to approximately 1:4 which is remarkably high.

Though Pakistan has always remained deficient in local production of crude oil and energy products, it has never felt any serious problem in getting the supplies — even during many wars in the Middle East. Pakistan has been importing nearly 75 per cent of its crude oil and energy products from the Middle Eastern countries — mainly from Kuwait. The other sources include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Abu Dhabi and Oman. For almost last 30 years total import of energy products has remained in the public sector. The GoP has allowed Pakistan State Oil (PSO) and Kuwait Petroleum Company to handle country's entire import of these products. PSO also enjoys the first right to lift products from local refineries. This has enabled the Company to achieve over 70 per cent share of the total market.


The year 1998 witnessed numerous development some having positive implications and some having negative repercussions. But fall in crude oil prices to a level unprecedented in over two decades was the most significant negative development. Many attempts to halt the slide and restore stability to oil markets failed. These included lack of compliance by some producers with agreed production quotas, decline in oil demand and successive economic crises in several countries.

The industrial nations and non oil developing countries were not immune to negative effects of the price slide. Some of them experienced downturn in their growth rates and international oil companies were obliged to merge in an effort to cut costs, optimize reserves and rationalize their distribution networks.

Demand for oil was extremely weak in 1998, increasing by only 0.3 million barrels per day. The year marked a change in the trend that had prevailed for five years when annual increases ranged between 1.2 per cent to 2.8 per cent while that of 1998 was less than 0.4 per cent. The close relationship between falling demand and the slowdown in world economic growth asserted itself in 1998. The global growth was half what it had been for the preceding four years.

The developing countries' share of world oil demand continued to rise in 1998. It accounted for 36 per cent as compared to 33 per cent in 1994. Nevertheless, the developing countries accounted for about 88 per cent of the increase in world oil consumption. The total consumption amounted to 26.4 million barrels per day. The economic crisis in the 'Asian Tigers' altered the course of oil demand. It also dashed the hopes that had been pinned on the growth of this market. Oil consumption in Latin America accounted for 88 per cent of the overall global increase in demand. Oil consumption in Africa and Middle East, which represents nearly 26 per cent of total consumption in the developing countries was higher than previous year. Africa's economic growth rate was higher than other regions. In the Middle East the economic growth rate fell. This decline was due to the impact of oil price slump on the oil producing countries. The slump also affected oil producers in Africa. Oil consumption in countries in transition declined. This followed only one year of recovery. This group's share in world oil demand dropped considerably from over 15 per cent in 1988 to 7.4 per cent in 1998.

The slowdown in world oil demand growth prompted a similar downturn in oil supplies. OPEC raised production ceiling to 27.5 million barrels per day but the supplies from outside OPEC continued to flow at the maximum rates causing stocks to rise to their highest level since 1992. As oil supplies rose faster than demand, stocks of crude oil and products almost reached their maximum level. The situation came to a head at the beginning of 1998 when inventory levels exceeded their maximum limit.

The weakness of world oil demand, the non-compliance of OPEC members, the rise in non-OPEC supplies and the UN agreement to double Iraq's oil exports contributed to a sharp decline in oil prices in 1998. Compared with previous years, prices reached a record low, which raised alarms in global markets. Prices were lower than they had been for twenty years — even exceeding the 1986 fall. When calculating oil prices in real terms, after discounting inflation, the oil prices in 1998 were the lowest since the 1973 price adjustment.

The Slump in oil prices lowered economic growth in oil exporting countries. It also affected their imports from oil consuming countries and those countries' investment in the oil states. Reports about the North Sea indicate that about 40 oil and gas fields have recently been discovered in the area, but it would only be profitable to develop them if the price of oil were US$ 18 per barrel. If the price dropped to US$ 12 per barrel, it would only be economic to develop half of the new fields.

The new technologies, whose successful marketing and use in recent years have cut costs, boosted production and supplies and consequently brought down prices. All the major companies have achieved exploration costs averaging US$ 2, an average development cost of US$ 4, and an operating cost of US$ 4 per barrel. The exploration and development costs are paid only once and are recovered relatively quickly once the field comes on stream — the major cost factor is the operation.

In response to the drop in oil prices many major companies have resorted to merger. The biggest mergers in the petroleum industry in 1998 occured between British Petroleum and Amoco, Exxon and Mobil, and the French company Total with the Belgian company Fina. The reasons for merger are said to be: cutting cost, covering capital and operating costs, eliminating duplication, enhancing their competitive edge, spreading risks and losses and boosting the value of their shares. This trend is expected to continue.

World oil demand in 1999 will continue to be determined, by the economic crisis in Asia and Russia. It appears from the intervention of various governments and international organizations that the situation was not too gloomy and that the economic growth could be restored and confidence returned to financial markets. It is hoped that world oil demand would rise at slightly higher rate than that in 1998. Forecasts indicate that oil demand in 1999 will rise. Demand for oil from oil producing countries will continue to depend on the difference between the rise in world oil demand and the rise in non-OPEC oil supplies


The incentives offered in the Petroleum Policy invoked interest in oil and gas exploration activity in the country. The higher pace of activity has resulted in some large scale discoveries. However, the slower pace of oil and gas exploration activity in the country, during the last three years, was due to a number of reasons. Low prices of crude oil was the most important reason. With the increase in global prices of crude oil, it is expected that exploration and development activities in Pakistan would be more profitable for the companies. With the greater activities fresh investment in the sector is also expected.

With the discoveries of huge reserves of gas, it is expected that some of the sectors which were getting lower gas quota would be allocated higher volumes and the sectors which were not allowed to use gas as fuel may once again be allowed to switch over to gas consumption. The objective behind the proposed policy is to restrict import of furnace oil which has lower calorific value and creates more pollution. Besides, handling of gas is much easy and costs less.

Therefore, the two gas distribution companies are expected to undertake massive expansion in their transmission and distribution networks. FFC-Jordan, a urea and DAP manufacturing company, has been added to SSGC network in late 1998. Bin Qasim thermal power plant of KESC, till recently mostly using furnace oil, is being gradually shifted to gas.

The other two large scale power plants namely KAPCO and HUBCO can also be converted to gas instead of furnace oil. KAPCO has a dual firing system and it only needs allocation of gas quota. Since the supply has to come from SNGPL, already deficient in gas supply, there is a need to expand and upgrade transmission and distribution network in SNGPL franchised area. Switching over of power plants, from furnace oil to gas, will help in reducing Pakistan's dependence on imported furnace oil, improving efficiency of thermal power plants, reducing repair and maintenance cost, and conserving environmental degradation.

It is suggested that GoP should consider allowing cement plants to switch over from furnace oil to gas. This will not only help in reducing cost of production but will also improve economic viability of the industry. Fuel is a major cost component in cement plants. Lower capacity utilization, inability to increase price of cement and lower off-take had rendered the industry uneconomical. Any effort to cut cost of production will have a positive impact on cement industry as well as construction industry in the country.

It appears that IPPs controversy would be resolved with the help of multilateral institutions shortly. It is said that the tussle between GoP and IPPs has been the main hurdle in the inflow of foreign direct investment in Pakistan. With the ending of this bizarre episode the industrial activities are expected to accelerate and will have a direct bearing on oil and gas sector.

In addition to this, the increase in crude oil prices is expected to improve earnings of oil exporting countries and their investment in other countries. Similarly, exploration and development will be more profitable. Therefore, it is expected that Pakistan would once again become attractive for oil and gas exploring companies. But there is a need that the irritants responsible for lower inflow of foreign investment must be removed as soon as possible.