LAHORE: With a sudden drop in temperature across the country, the ongoing gas crisis deepened on Sunday as the total shortfall surged to 600 million metric cubic feet a day (MMCFD) that may compel the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) to curtail the supply to sectors other than domestic consumers.
The shortfall has affected not only the supply to domestic consumers but also to the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) sector for the past several days.
Addressing a press conference in Sialkot on Sunday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told the media that the government had directed the authorities concerned to ensure gas supply to households even at the cost of the CNG sector.
Both the gas utilities and the federal government have done little over the years to further explore natural gas, check gas theft and leakage, import the required liquefied natural gas (particularly in case of Sindh), and curb use of compressors by consumers despite the ever-increasing demand and repeated warnings by weather experts to Pakistan about effects of climate change.
Countrywide shortfall reaches 600MMCFD
Feeding Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the SNGPL faces over 200MMCFD gas shortfall.
According to a senior official of the SNGPL, gas theft in KP and various sectors in Punjab is a major reason behind the shortfall.
“Half of the total volume of the gas being produced in KP (400MMCFD) is being stolen by the people of the areas close to gas fields. They have their own networks to steal gas, claiming it a matter of their right as the gas is being extracted from their areas,” he said.
The official said: “The gas available with us ranges between 950 and 970MMCFD. We are also receiving around 1,020MMCFD RLNG (Regasified Liquefied Natural Gas) in our system.
“But the demand is rising fast, forcing us to stop gas supply to the industry and the CNG sector to accommodate about six million domestic consumers in Punjab and KP.”
About the changing weather pattern, the official said Pakistan was the fifth most affected country by climate change. “The intensity of winter we are facing these days is very harsh, pushing up demand in all provinces.
“The situation appears to be going out of control despite giving 20 per cent more gas to domestic consumers,” the senior official warned.
According to him, massive use of compressors by consumers in areas experiencing extremely low gas pressure is another major reason of shortfall.
A senior SSGC official said: “Initially we had stopped the supply to the CNG sector, but the issue did not resolve. We requested the industry to at least stop using gas meant for captive power plants, but they didn’t listen, rendering the utility helpless in giving relief to the domestic consumers.”
Supplying gas to Sindh and Balochistan, the SSGC faces a shortfall of 400MMCFD as the current demand surged to 1,500MMCFD.
Since the utility is dependent over the natural gas coming into its system from various gas fields in Sindh and Sui in Balochistan, it doesn’t import additional LNG to bridge a gap between demand and supply.
Another SSGC official said there were issues of land acquisition and the right of way to lay two pipelines for extracting gas from the new gas fields. He said the utility was seeking cooperation of the relevant authorities to overcome the crisis.
Answering a question, he said the SSGC also wanted to import LNG to meet its growing demand but the federal government was not giving them permission.