ISLAMABAD - The federal government has said that the Sindh government’s insistence that gas needs of the province should be fulfilled first before those of other provinces is an unrealistic one, saying that this would open a Pandora’s Box and other provinces will also demand the same.

The government has also warned the provincial government that if it denies the right of way to SSGCL pipelines for drawing gas from various fields, the provincial capital, Karachi, may face gas shortage of 250 to 300 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) during winters next year.

The federal government had written eight letters to the provincial government, but the right of way was not given, Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Petroleum Nadeem Babar and Petroleum Division Secretary Mian Asad Hayauddin said while talking to the media here on Monday.

Regarding the Sindh government’s stance that the province had the first right on its gas as laid down in Article 158 of the constitution, SAPM Nadeem Baber said that this would set a wrong precedent. “If we do so, tomorrow the hydel power producing province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), wheat producing province of Punjab can also take such a stand. The government cannot stop the supply of gas to the domestic consumers of other provinces until the gas requirements of consumers in Sindh are not fulfilled,” he said categorically.

Sindh made claim citing Article 158 of Constitution

He said incomplete gas projects coupled with harsh winters had resulted in gas shortage in the country.

Baber said the federal government had intimated the government of Sindh in last  February that there would be around 300 mmcfd of gas shortage in the province due to the incomplete gas projects, but no heed was paid to the warning.

Babar informed that a meeting was scheduled with the Sindh government high-ups in a few days time in which attempt would be made to convince them to give the right of way for projects which would not only benefit the province, but the entire Pakistan.

Rejecting the Sindh government’s claim that the province produced 2300 mmcfd of gas and consumed less, the SAPM said that Sindh produced 2200 mmcfd of gas, 1225 mmcfd is of SSGC pipeline for domestic consumers, while another 750 to 800 mmcfd is being supplied to fertilizer and energy plants in the province. “These projects include 17-km pipeline from LNG terminals to Parkland Station, another 125-Km pipeline from gas field in interior Sindh to Parkland and 25 mmcfd of gas evacuation from Aminah and Ayesha fields,” he elaborated.

SAPM said that the provincial government had recently given permission for some of these projects, yet there had been no progress on the remaining projects.

“If the right of way is also granted for the other projects, we can move 1300 mmcfd of gas which is currently 1112 mmcfd. The LNG procurement can also be increased,” he said, and added, “Due to current shortage, we had to stop gas supply to all industries except process and zero-rated ones in Punjab from Dec 19-30.”

He said gas supply to the CNG sector would resume today (Tuesday). He further said that south region was insulated to the maximum of the shortage, while burden was put on north region.

He also said that it was the coldest season over the last 47 years, where the demand for gas had increased rapidly, only in Karachi the domestic demand had increased by 20 per cent. Babar said that the government was also going to issue international tenders for 18 oil and gas exploration blocks tomorrow (Wednesday).

At the same time, he also said that due to the closure of the MOL gas field in district Karak of KP because of locals protest had also affected gas supply. “In order to provide gas to the locals, we have taken approval of Rs10 billion from the ECC,” he informed.

He said that local gas production reduces by seven percent every year. Three years back, we had the highest gas production, which started declining but the previous government did not work on increasing the production. He said that currently, Mari gas is supplying 586 mmcfd of gas to Sindh, OGDCL 332 mmcfd to Balochistan, SNGPL 234 mmcfd to power and fertilizer plants in Sindh, PPL 134 mmcfd to Sindh and another 60 mmcfd of gas is being supplied from SSGCL to Sindh.