Sep 27 - Oct 3, 20

Lately gas supply in the country was disrupted for two reasons 1) annual turnaround and 2) flood water entering into gas fields. With the completion of turnaround and receding of floodwater gas supply has improved but not returned to normal. Gas production as well as marketing companies tried their best to minimise the disruption but could not avoid load shedding.

In the aftermath of floods gas, supply from three major gas fields to Sui Southern Gas Company was reduced. However, the situation has improved considerably with the passage of time. Supply from Zamzama field was reduced to 190mmcfd from 240mmcfd creating a shortfall of 50mmcfd. Two gas fields namely Kadanwari and Badin developed certain technical faults. While supply from Kadanwari field was curtailed to 140mmcfd from 160mmcfd, supply from Badin field was slashed to 166mmcfd from 180mmcfd. Supply from Bhit field remained normal at 340mmcfd.

The cumulative shortfalls from Zamzama, Badin, Kadanwari rising to 84mmcfd SSGC was forced to curtail supply of gas to KESC to 140mmcfd from 200mmcfd, a shortfall of 60mmcfd, as part of gas load management plan. To manage the shortfall, SSGC also requested Zamzama field to increase supply of gas to 210mmcfd from 190mmcfd which ultimately helped in containing load shedding of gas in its franchised area.

A point worth mentioning is despite receivables of Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) getting close to Rs22 billion gas supply didn't face any interruption. This effort was aimed at avoiding any shortfall in electricity supply to Karachi already facing serious power shortage.

In response to letter of Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to overcome shortage of petrol in the province, the federal government decided to allow CNG stations in the province to remain open. However, gas supply to CNG stations by Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) remained unsatisfactory.

Reportedly, All Pakistan CNG Dealers Association has been holing dialogues with SNGPL to improve gas supply to CNG stations but situation remains far from satisfactory. Ghiyas Abdullah Paracha, Chairman of the Association while talking to media said that they were holding talks with the SNGPL authorities to end the load shedding for the last few weeks because there was no shortage of gas.

Lately, SNGPL had sent notices to the industry and CNG stations for the suspension of gas supply due to Qadirpur gas field shutdown owing to annual turnaround. The company later took the decision back following the completion of work at the Qadirpur gas field and resumed supply to all CNG stations

Industrial consumers were informed well in advance and requested to conserve gas; the response was lackluster. The pressure of gas companies mounted to curtail gas supply to fertilizer plants and divert it to power plants. Contrary to the advice of experts, government remained adamant at running power plants on gas. The result was import of urea eroding country's foreign exchange reserves and forcing the government to pay billions of rupees subsidy on imported urea. There is an urgent need to explore demand and supply of gas to expedite gas import to avoid its load shedding.

Historically, gas supply to industrial units has been curtailed in winter to meet the enhanced demand of domestic consumers. However, over the last couple of year situation got from bad to worse. During last winter, the shortfall became so acute that not only gas supply to fertilizer units had to be curtailed for extended period but once a week closure of CNG stations was made mandatory. There is no more weekly closure of CNG stations in Sindh but no letup in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It is necessary to reiterate that the load shedding of gas is the outcome of excessive transmission and distribution losses and the ongoing litigation of some of the gas fields. Experts are of the opinion that resolving these contentious problems the existing shortfall of gas can be overcome. However, measures have to be taken to enhance the supply to meet future needs.

To meet the growing demand for gas, few steps must be taken at the earliest: 1) creating awareness among the consumers to avoid wastage of gas; 2) forcing the gas marketing companies to contain unaccounted for gas; 3) making it mandatory for the thermal power plants to switch over to fossil oil from gas; 4) stopping gas supply to cement plants, a discriminatory policy and 5) resolving ongoing litigation regarding some of the major fields discovered lately.

Keeping in view growing demand of urea in the country two plants each of one million tons have also to be established at the earliest. The objective cannot be achieved without guaranteeing gas supply and its price for the first ten years, at least. Gas supply to fertilizer plants can only be ensured by stopping gas supply to thermal power plants and cement manufacturing plants. The habit of sweeping the problems under the carpet has created many problems for the country. To achieve food security attaining self sufficiency in fertilizer production is a must.

Though, Pakistan is part of two major gas pipeline projects 1) Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline and 2) Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipelines the progress is disappointing. Some of the experts are of the opinion that prospects of completion of either of the pipelines are very dim. The US is the promoter of TAPI and also the biggest opponent of IPI. Therefore, Pakistan will have to expedite exploration in the country to remain self sufficient in gas. Supply can also be enhanced by completion of work on LNG terminal on war footings.