LAHORE: Officials of the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) heaved a sigh of relief after the Mol gasfield resumed its operation at the optimum level of 325MMCFD gas on Thursday.

The production from the gasfield situated in Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had earlier squeezed to 125MMCFD after the locals forcibly had it curtailed in protest against the government for not fulfilling the commitments it made with them for certain development works in the area.

“Karak residents had forcibly curtailed the gasfield’s production that was squeezed to 125MMCFD a few days ago. This caused increase in the gas shortfall that crossed 400MMCFD, leaving the SNGPL (which deals with the gas distribution affairs in Punjab and KP) with no option but to either suspend or curtail supply to the CNG, general industry and power sectors in a bid to accommodate around six million domestic consumers in both the provinces,” a senior SNGPL official told Dawn.

The SNGPL had on Dec 19 halted gas supply to general industry -- fertiliser, manufacturing and compressed natural gas sectors -- to meet energy needs of the domestic consumers in the cold weather. However, it did not suspend supply to zero-rated industry (textile, sports, surgical goods, carpets and leather), stating that the supply to general industries and CNG sector would be restored as soon as the situation gets normal.

Later, the company on Dec 23 also curtailed gas supply to various power plants that led to electricity shortfall and forcing the power distribution companies (Discos) including the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) to observe loadshedding in many areas, particularly those falling within service jurisdiction of high loss 11-kV feeders.

As the domestic sector still faces extremely low gas pressure or no gas in the tail-end areas for the last many days, its demand of 1,387 million cubic feet per day (MMCDF) on an average last year touched 1,535 mmcfd. It forced the company to divert 155MMCDF of regasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG) of industry to the system to meet demand of the domestic sector.

Later, the demand further rose to around 1,775MMCFD due to cold wave and gas shortage that widened the gap between demand and supply to 400MMCFD or so.

“The residents living near the gasfields in KP including the Mol field neither pay bills nor allow gas producing operation off and on in a bid to press the government to lay gas pipelines, construct road infrastructure etc. Though the company has been witnessing the situation for long, the government never handled this issue strictly. However, recently, the government approved Rs9 billion for launching various development works including gas pipelines and roads infrastructure in these areas,” he said.

The official said the operation of the gasfield on full capacity would help the company to have 200MMCFD more gas in its system and supply it to domestic consumers. Similarly, the company would start receiving 1,070MMCFD of RLNG from Dec 27 (today) which is 70MMCFD more than the earlier supply.

“Hopefully, we will be able to improve the situation considerably soon subject to consistent and adequate indigenous gas supply from the gasfields and improved weather condition,” the official said.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2019