Gas shortages

25 Sep 2020

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WITH the winter months approaching, can gas shortages be far behind? The shortfalls have been part of life in Pakistan for over a decade, save for a few years under the previous government when the deficit was partially covered through expensive RLNG imports. Decreasing gas pressure around this time normally signals worsening gas supply in the winter as demand surges owing to the heating needs of domestic consumers. This year, the supply situation seems to have aggravated, particularly in Karachi and the rest of Sindh, much earlier than usual. Most consumers, especially industries in Karachi, are already complaining about supply disruptions and low pressure as SSGC currently faces a deficit of 150mmcfd. The state-owned utility warns that the gap will rise to 350mmcfd in winter. Sadly, gas shortages for Karachi residents also mean constant electricity outages as SSGC cuts its supply to power producers and factories to serve domestic customers on a priority basis. It is quite agonising for the residents, who are still recovering from the impact of the unprecedented urban flooding some weeks ago, to have to also suffer long hours without electricity and gas.

In Punjab, SNGPL has already begun preparing its customers for the worst, warning industry of supply cuts during the peak winter months. With the country’s gas demand estimated to be around 6-7bcfd against the domestic availability of 3.5bcfd and current reserves depleting by 9pc annually, and with no new discoveries in sight, the government estimates that Sindh, KP and Balochistan will also be facing supply deficits in the next few years, even if they stop sharing part of their supplies with Punjab. The gap is hard to fill without RLNG imports. With development of planned RLNG import capacity delayed, the next few winters are going to be quite harsh for all gas consumers. Instead of further delaying action, Islamabad should sit with the provinces to find a durable solution and increase supplies, instead of picking a fight with them, especially Sindh, so that it can mitigate the public’s pain.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2020