ISLAMABAD - Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), without getting nod of the prime minister, has suspended natural gas supply to all industrial units including captive power plants and CNG stations, which in result will seriously hit the masses during cold weather.

Official sources at the gas utility (SNGPL) told The Nation that a decision to suspend the natural gas supply to all industrial units including captive power plants and CNG stations situated in the jurisdiction of SNGPL has been made due to decrease in the mercury level. They said gas shortfall during last two days had been increased by 30 crore cubic feet and surged to one billion cubic feet per day while the total gas supply of SNGPL was 1.9 billion cubic feet per day. They also said that above 2,000 CNG filling stations situated in Punjab province would not find gas with the start of running week.

“Due to increasing gas shortfall, gas supply to CNG stations, industrial units, fertilizer sector, captive power plants and independent power producers (IPPs) located in Punjab province will witness closure in cold weather, a senior official at the gas utility said.

The sources also said that growing demand of gas by the domestic consumers due to prevailing cold, maintaining pressure in the transmission line had become a difficult task. If there would be decrease in the intensity of prevailing cold and gas demand too then a review would be made in the gas load management plan. However, in other case, gas supply would be completely suspended till February for the above-mentioned category of gas consumers, they added.  

A spokesman of SNGPL, while talking to this scribe, said owing to increasing cold, gas supply to all industrial units, captive power plants, and CNG stations would be suspended from today (Tuesday) at (6a.m).

On the other hand, petroleum and natural resources ministry had earlier dispatched a summary to Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, seeking approval for complete suspension of gas supply to all consumers including CNG sector, fertilizer, industry, captive power plants, IPPs etc, except to domestic consumers, tandoors and some power plants in January and February. The ministry in its gas load management plan had also recommended six days gas load shedding during March and April for CNG, fertilizer sectors, industries, captive power plants, IPPs etc.

Earlier, petroleum ministry in a summary pertaining to new gas load management plan sent to Premier Nawaz Sharif, available with this scribe, had recommended closure of gas supply in running winter ostensibly due to increasing gas shortfall. In Punjab, industrial sector including captive power plants would find no gas in December to February and six holidays in March and April. Likewise, in Sindh, one holiday would be observed in December while two holidays in January to March. Some gas load management will also be observed depending on demand-supply gap. There will be no load management in Balochistan.

About the gas supply to compressed natural gas (CNG) sector during current winter, the MPNR summary said, “In Punjab, CNG stations will observe seven holidays in December to February and six holidays in March and April. Likewise in Sindh, three gas holidays will be observed in CNG sector. As Khyber Pukhtunkhwa demand is expected to outstrip its supplies, therefore some gas load management will also be observed depending on demand-supply gap. There will be no load management in Balochistan,” reads the MPNR plan.  

It is to note here that though SNGPL had suspended gas supply to CNG sector without waiting for the approval of premier, yet the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Association had rejected the plan of gas suspension. The CNG association has called an emergency meeting of its office-bearers to formulate a strategy, as the CNG sector has no alternate fuel to run the business. The association would announce its strategy on December 12.

The average gas supply by two gas utility companies (SNGPL & SSGCL) in the country at present is 3,734 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD). And, the estimated natural gas demand-supply position on gas network of both utility companies for winter 2013-14 has depicted a shortfall ranging from 1,249 to 1.921 mmcfd.

“Historically, gas demand during winter increases due to manifold increase in consumption in the domestic sector, in almost all areas on SNGPL’s system and in some areas of SSGCL’s system, which compels the gas companies to enforce gas load management in their respective franchise areas,” the MPNR summary reads.

The new gas load management plant for the on-going winter has also revealed that the ministry had recommended continuing normal gas supply to domestic and commercial sectors, keeping in view the current gas supply priority order.

 According to the summary, the three fertilizer plants on system of SNGPL namely Pakarab, Agritech and Dawood Hercules will remain closed during winter while the fourth plant namely Engro will get supply from alternate source of Mari field. The only fertilizer plant on SSGCL system namely Fauji Bin Qasim will be supplied reduced volumes till mid December 2013 and will then remain closed till next February-end. Thereafter, gas supply to the said plant will be restored with reduced volumes.

Besides, no gas supply could be made to some independent power producers (IPPs) namely Orient, Saif, Saphire, Halmore, Altern and KAPCO while gas supply commitment on SNGPL system with power plants namely Rousch, FKPCL, Liberty Power and Engro Power would be honoured. And, on SSGCL system, partial gas load management will also be observed in power sector.

The Peshawar and Sindh High Courts through separate decisions had directed the federal government and gas utility companies to adhere to the Article 158 of the Constitution while dealing with all stakeholders in the respective provinces in connection with supply of gas. Except Punjab, all other provinces are producing gas more than their consumption and are net exporters to Punjab, resulting in severe gas load management on the SNGPL system particularly in Punjab. The said Article 158 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which provides professional treatment to the gas producing provinces, reads as under:

“The provinces in which well-head of natural gas is situated shall have precedence over other parts of Pakistan in meeting the requirements from that well-head subject to commitments and obligations as on the commencing day.”

It is worth-mentioning that to ensure optimal utilization of natural gas for the best socio-economic development of the country a gas supply priority order was already set under Natural Gas Allocation and Management Policy 2005. Under the priority order, domestic and commercial sector falls at first order, while power sector comes at second number, general industrial, fertilizer and captive power at third commercial sector including its captive power at fourth number and CNG sector falls at fifth number in the priority order.