Pakistan plans to import around 500,000 Mcf/day of LNG from Qatar starting at the end this year, an official at the ministry of petroleum and natural resources said Wednesday.

A four-member delegation will leave for Qatar within a week to finalize plans including prices, the official said.

Pakistan's gas shortfall is expected to hit 3.021 Bcf/day in 2016 with no big discoveries in sight, and the country will become increasingly dependent on imports to meet its energy demand, the State Bank of Pakistan said last month in a report.

While rationing of natural gas is inevitable in the near future, meaningful steps must be taken to curtail residential consumption, while prioritizing supply to the fertilizer and power sectors, the central bank said.

The net demand in fiscal 2011-12 (July-June) is expected be around 5.497 Bcf/d and will expand to around 6.354 Bcf/d by 2015-16. As a result, the gas shortfall is estimated to grow from 2.458 Bcf/d in 2011-12 to 3.021 Bcf/day in 2015-16.

Qatar will provide LNG to Pakistan based on a sovereign guarantee from Islamabad, the official said.

Last year, Pakistan gave licenses to three companies -- Pakistan Gasport, Engro Corporation and Global Energy Infrastructure to bring 1.5 billion cubic feet/day LNG into Pakistan, and these companies are to build terminals to handle the LNG.

Following the finalization of the plan with Qatar, Pakistan is expected to use these terminals to bring LNG into the country after paying these operators.

Pakistan now faces a gas shortfall of about 1 Bcf/d to 1.2 Bcf/day, as demand is estimated at around 5.2 Bcf/d to 5.4 Bcf/day, while production is 4.2 Bcf/d.

The shortfall is expected to increase to 3.18 Bcf/d in 2014, with projected gas supply of 4.28 Bcf/d against estimated demand of 7.46 Bcf/d.

The government estimates gas consumption by the power sector at around 29%, industry at 26%, domestic users at 19%, fertilizers 15%, and transport 10%.