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LAHORE: Gas supply to Punjab’s industrial units, compressed natural gas (CNG) stations and four power plants was temporarily suspended on Tuesday after a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal owned by Engro Corporation encountered a technical fault.

The outage resulted in gas supply suspension to 412-megawatt Rousch and 157MW Fauji Kabirwala power plants in Khanewal, and two state-owned plants in Faisalabad having a combined production capacity of 241MW. As a result, the country’s power shortfall soared by nearly 800MW, to 4,500MW.

The terminal, operated by Engro’s Elengy Terminal Pakistan Ltd (ETPL) at Port Qasim, has the capacity to re-gasify 600 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of LNG.

The situation worsened after the shortfall in the country’s biggest distribution company, the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco), crossed 1,400MW after its demand surged to 4,632MW. This forced officials to observe load-shedding for four to six hours in urban and eight to 10 hours in rural areas in addition to the shutdowns caused by system constraints.

The country’s power shortfall widens by 800MW after the shutdown

Jahangir Piracha, CEO of ETPL and Engro Vopak Terminal Ltd, told Dawn the outage occurred when the terminal was being restarted after going through a routine monthly check-up. “As we were ramping up [the system], one of the pumps had a very abnormal sort of we ramped it up to half capacity to 300 [mmcfd],” he said over the phone, adding that the decision was taken to avert the risk of a potentially catastrophic fault.

He hoped the terminal would be back to normal capacity by 10am on Wednesday.

The fault partially affected the regasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG) supply to Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL), a senior official of the company told Dawn requesting anonymity. The gas utility was receiving only 300 mmcfd of the total 650 mmcfd of RLNG due to the fault, he said.

“We had no option but to suspend the gas supply to the entire industrial and CNG sectors in Punjab,” he said.

The SNGPL’s managing director clarified that the company was receiving 400 mmcfd of RLNG. “Due to the problem at Elengy terminal, we are facing a shortfall of 250 mmcfd. Besides, 150 mmcfd of indigenous gas has also been cut to our system due to maintenance. So the total shortfall is 400 mmcfd,” he explained.

“But we have not suspended the gas supply to the industry as we have requested them to minimise the gas usage,” he said.

The managing director said the gas supply to Bhikki, Haveli Bahadur Shah, Nandipur and other power plants was going on as usual.

On the other hand, a spokesman for the SNGPL confirmed that the gas supply to the entire industry and the CNG sector has been suspended.

“Consequent upon disruption of RLNG supplies due to technical problems at Engro LNG terminal and annual turnaround of MOL plant, we are facing severe shortfall and low pressures on our system,” read a text message sent by the spokesman to Dawn. “So in order to ensure smooth operation of the system, gas supply to CNG and industrial sectors in Punjab has been suspended.”

Later, he told Dawn the gas supply to some RLNG-based power plants was also curtailed.

Ilays Ahmad, general manager of the National Transmission and Despatch Company’s National Power Control Centre, said the technical fault at the LNG terminal squeezed the country’s total power generation to around 17,500MW. The total demand recorded on Tuesday ranged between 21,000MW and 22,000MW.

A Lesco official said the company’s demand crossed 4,600MW on Tuesday against the supply of 3,200MW. He said the reason behind the increase in demand was the use of electricity by industrial consumers, who switched to this mode after the gas supply was curtailed.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2017