‘Worst gas crisis’ feared this winter

LAHORE: Punjab is likely to face the worst gas crisis during the upcoming winter because of the massive delay in completion of the 2nd Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal, which is now expected to be commissioned by December, this year.

The project is being executed by the Pakistan GasPort Consortium Limited (PGPC) as contractor and being monitored by the Pakistan LNG Terminals Limited–a subsidiary of the Ministry of Energy-Petroleum Division— being the client.

Initially it was scheduled to be completed on June 30 under the agreement, but later rescheduled to be commissioned in July or August, ahead of the winter.

The project missed the deadline that was again extended to September, to be eventually missed for the third time. The government now claims the terminal will be commissioned by November, 2017.

“It seems the 2nd LNG terminal will not be ready by November and there are chances it will be commissioned finally in December. Thus, the project will be able to regasify the 600MMCFD of the LNG and supply it to Punjab by December or so, the time when about half of the winter will already be over,” explains an official of the ministry of energy (petroleum division) while talking to Dawn on Wednesday.

He says the consumers in Punjab passed the last winter a bit comfortably with lesser loadshedding than the previous year’s after the authorities initially diverted some quantity of the total 600MMCFD of RLNG — meant for industrial consumers and the power plants — to the domestic and commercial ones.

When the situation worsened, the authorities even diverted the entire 600MMCFD LNG supply to the domestic consumers by suspending supplies to industrial and power sectors.

“But this time the situation is quite different, as commissioning of the 2nd terminal couldn’t be done well on time (before winter) and now it is likely to be done in December, when the winter will be in full swing,” the official added.

Punjab gets 700 to 800 MMCFD of the system indigenous gas, which is surplus to Khyber Pukhtunkhwa consumption in the light of the article 158 of the Constitution. However, its demand always increases in winter, crossing 1,200MMCFD. Thus, Punjab faces a shortfall of 400 to 500MMCFD in the system gas which badly affects the domestic and commercial consumers in the province. Similarly, the 600mmcfd of RLNG being supplied to Punjab currently is not meant for the domestic sector, as it is consumed by the industrial and power sectors alone.

“So this winter, there is also no possibility of RLNG diversion to domestic sector, as three Punjab-based power plants — Bhikki (Sheikhupura), Balloki (Kasur) and Havaili Bahadur Shah (Jhang) — are likely to be operated under combined cycle mode in December,” he warned.

“In this way, these plants alone will consume over 500MMCFD (170MMCFD each) of the total 600MMCFD RLNG and only 100MMCFD will be available for the industrial sector. So the authorities won’t be able to divert the remaining 100MMCFD to the domestic consumers, and even if 100MMCFD is diverted to them, the problem will not end, keeping in view the increasing demand,” he said.

The industrial consumers are also likely to face a tough situation this winter as compared to the last one. However, the situation, according to the official, will not improve till commissioning of the terminal and supply of another 600MMCFD to Punjab, which is dedicated for the three power plants.

However, the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) Managing Director Mr Amjad Latif denied any crisis was impending in winter.

“The Punjab will start receiving another 600MMCFD of RLNG when the terminal becomes operational, which, according to my knowledge, will be in November. But even if there is a delay in this regard, we can handle the situation well,” he said.

“Due to reduction in electricity demand in winter, various thermal and gas-fired power plants are closed. So, we will be able to divert the gas to the domestic consumers,” he added.

However, an official source in the power sector rejected the MD’s claim, wondering how the SNGPL would avoid the worsening situation when Punjab would neither receive another 600MMCFD of RLNG nor gets adequate power supply in case of less hydel generation due to canal closure from December to January.

“How the gas meant for the power plants can be diverted to the domestic sector when hydel power generation is meager,” the official wondered. “So in view of the less hydel generation, the government will have to operate all gas-fired power plants in winter to meet the demand,” he added.

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