Dawn News

The World Bank—File Photo
The World Bank—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank has estimated that unaccounted for gas (UFG) will exceed 10 per cent during the current fiscal year and has expressed serious concern over widespread tampering with the domestic gas meter which can be easily done, only with a screwdriver.

As part of the Rs50 billion efficiency improvement programme for Pakistan’s gas sector, an aide memoir of the World Bank reported to the government that the UFG had been on the rise for over 10 years. “The cost of UFG has risen even faster, whether based on cost of domestic gas production or the value of imported petroleum products that could have been saved if all the UFG was available for consumption.”

After visiting gas metering plants and repair shops, a recent mission of the World Bank said: “Tampering with domestic gas meters appears to be widespread and is reasonably easy to undertake, requiring only a screwdriver.”

It suggested improved design with the use of non-removable screws for the meter and for the indexing assembly which records gas flows.

The bank said that a significant number of one type of meter used for domestic customers under-measured the gas passing through. “In worst cases, the meter registers none or very little of gas passing through it.”

Although the results available were derived from only three per cent of the domestic meters used by the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), the indication was that meter error could account for as much as a quarter of the total UFG of the company.

By contrast in 2010 when the UFG was first discussed with the bank, this was as low as negligible.

“If the severity of the meter problem is confirmed, SSGC may have to import residential meters in addition to fully utilising the available capacity in its metering plant in order to roll out new meters at the necessary pace,” the World Bank said.

While working on segmentation of various household and gas network areas into about 400 segments, the bank also proposed strategies involving complete pipeline replacement or repair, complete meter replacement, calibration of a substantial portion of old meters to add to the UFG understanding and testing of new technologies for trenching, pipeline repairs, etc.

The bank appreciated that the SSGC had already established 74 segments, including 53 in Karachi, eight in interior Sindh and 13 in Balochistan, and had already isolated segments in which UFG was shockingly high, often well over 30 per cent, allowing the company to proceed with further segmentation.

It reported that the effect of system pressure on leakage was more substantial than previously considered and in locations where high system pressures were necessary to maintain supply in winter, the increased leakage associated with the increased pressure might account for much of the increased UFG during winter months. This was more relevant to Quetta which has the highest UFG in SSGC’s network, so the need for reducing gas pressures in such areas.

On top of that, the bank found that while the theft portion of gas was likely lower than many observers seemed to believe, it was nevertheless clearly a severe problem. It emphasised that by eradicating theft, gas companies would demonstrably practise good governance and let consumers know that gas theft would not be tolerated.

The World Bank has asked the SSGC to commit to the target of meeting international standards on gas losses which meant that “the renovated segments would have less than one per cent UFG and have no need for pressure management”.

The bank also proposed to start a pilot project for replacing inefficient residential consumer appliances with modern, efficient ones, or more likely a programme to retrofit parts to residential stoves that would increase thermal efficiency and impact gas consumption on a larger scale and more immediately. “The potential for energy saving is large, and could be of magnitude of almost 10 billion cubic feet per year for cook stoves only in SSGC’s service area,” the bank said.

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