GAS DEMAND & SUPPLY MANAGEMENT A SERIOUS CHALLENGE

PLUGGING HUGE LINE LOSSES IS VITAL TO OVERCOME ENERGY DEFICIT-ABBAS BILGRAMI

AMANULLAH BASHAR
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Jan 10 - 16, 20
11

The total production of natural gas is roughly estimated around 4 billion cubic feet, but actually it is not the firm number and even if it is taken as correct there still is a shortfall of 1.5 billion cubic feet, which has created energy chaos for the industrial consumers, CNG stations, and even domestic consumers due to low pressures.

Abbas Bilgrami, Managing Director Progas Pakistan Limited, a keen observer of the prevailing energy situation in Pakistan, however differs from what people call the shortage of gas threatening to the socio-economic development. A little bit critical over the mess created in the energy sector, Abbas pinpointed various gray areas due to sheer mismanagement of the sector. He pointed out that there was a criminal waste by all categories of energy consumers in Pakistan, because they were getting it at a damn cheap price. As you know the psyche of the people, they don't care of the things they get easily at a cheap price which is extremely low compared with the existing international prices of natural gas. Besides carefree use of gas, another significant area is the huge losses of gas both in SSGC and SNGPL systems. These losses are technically termed as unaccounted for gas, which is originally a theft in the system.

In official terms, there is a loss of over 7.9 per cent in the SSGC system but actually it is much higher and you know only one per cent loss of gas costs one billion rupees per annum while the actual loss in both the gas distribution companies is beyond imagination and needed to be plugged at the earliest. He was pretty sure that theft in the gas as well as power distribution systems cannot be carried out without connivance of the vested interests within the two organizations.

"You know about the impact of the gas losses on the economy. It is running in billion of rupees and according to an estimate it goes to the tune of Rs110 billion per annum," Abbas said in a harsh tone though he said he had a bad throat.

When talked to a senior official in the SSGC system, he conceded to the fact that there were huge losses of gas but most of them occurred in the province of Balochistan by the hostile groups, and that is no more a secret, he remarked. Besides damages to the transmission lines, the bill collection is also extremely poor in that province, he pointed out.

Abbas Bilgrami visibly perturbed over the persisting energy crisis said like other economic areas, energy sector too was not an exception to the rampant corruption. For more than a decade, country received oil at highly concessionary rates and with a facility of deferred payment but the people at the helm of affairs failed to capitalize on that facility by developing own alternative resources to reduce heavy dependence on

imported oil and criminally enjoyed that grace period as a leisure time. Now the situation is quite different, people around the world even in the friendly Muslim countries think in terms of commercial viability before entering into any commercial deal in oil or gas sectors.

We lost that opportunity of building up big dams to generate hydropower. Actually, the construction of dams was unnecessary politicized and every Tom, Dick, & Harry started raising voice against the construction of dams for political gains. He recalled days of Ayub Khan Regime when the dam projects like Tarbella or Mangla were constructed without making them a political issue. The precious project of Kalabagh in which huge money was thrown for feasibility reports and groundwork was almost complete, but unfortunately, it was thrown into a political mess.

Abbas apparently feeling the pain of energy chaos making common person's life miserable due to gross mismanagement and lack of vision, said that look at the ocean of energy available in Balochistan but due to gross mismanagement we cannot carry out exploration in energy rich areas of that province. Had the due share of gains been shared with the people of that province or their leaders, the situation would have been quite different today.

Commenting on the forthcoming projects at Thar coalfield, one is sponsored by Engro and the other experimental project under the supervision of nuclear scientist Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, Bilgrami again had his own reservations. Though he appreciated the initiatives of the Engro, yet he remarked availability of financing for that project was still questionable. The government of Sindh is supporting this important project; let's see how they manage to arrange financing for this project.

As far as gasification project being carried out by Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, he was of the view it could change the complex, yet again this project has a difficult proposition especially in terms of mining in that area which is extremely difficult especially under the given conditions in the face of lack of technical facilities and geophysical conditions of that area.

Actually Bilgrami carries quite a different theory regarding energy landscape in Pakistan, he was of the firm opinion that there was no shortage of energy. The only thing this country lacks is efficiency, willingness to work, transparency and above all taking things on economic viability rather than making emotionally charged decisions.

If the economic managers have the capacity to plug the leakages, determining commercially viable energy prices and efficient management, we could be an energy surplus nation.

CONCLUSION

Pakistan despite having enormous energy resources is facing extremely difficult situation. All energy consuming segments have to experience the tortures of load shedding in power and gas supplies which is obviously sending a bad message to the investors domestically and internationally. The situation calls for an action plan against rampant energy theft, development of available energy resources on war footings, and an awareness program for energy conservation across the country. It is important to note that the energy conservation program should be initiated at the highest level in the government offices to set an example for rest of the population, as the fish always start to rot from the head.