AHMAD AHMADANI

ISLAMABAD - The PPP-led ruling coalition in a surprising move has decided to import 500mmcfd LNG from Qatar in sheer violation of its LNG Policy 2011, ostensibly to meet the swelling needs of consumers, sources said on Tuesday.

According to detail, Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain has constituted a four-member committee to visit Doha on Sunday to negotiate pricing formula with Qatar authorities. Sources privy to the development disclosed to TheNation that viewing failure in timely import of 500mmcfd LNG to meet burgeoning energy woes of the country, the private LNG importer companies earlier got capacity allocations from the authority particularly the GEIP and generally the Engro and Pakistan Gas Port. The government in its recent move making mockery of LNG Policy 2011 has now desperately decided to directly import 500mmcfd Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the world’s top exporter Qatar with the assurance of a sovereign guarantee. A delegation comprising four-members will fly to Doha to set pricing formula of the commodity with the Persian Gulf country thus the government’s own unwillingness to conform to global industry practises by offering a sovereign guarantee to Qatar to import the LNG will ultimately force the government to scrap the plan. “If this government to government deal materialises then by December 2012 LNG will be in the country’ system, sources said adding “this sudden move of the incumbent government to start trade will not bear results as it is unrealistic, impractical and irrational and is only to materialise the dream of incumbent minister to secure hefty kick backs through this trade”.  Sources were of the opinion that incumbent minister had dreamt some four years earlier to earn heavily through LNG terminal trade. This sudden move is simple a political gimmick, ahead of general elections and public pressure on streets, sources added. It is also learnt that this import of LNG is to do away the gas outages particularly to meet the soaring demands of gas consumers.

However, at the same time financial wizards have argued that without necessary measures and related infrastructure for handling the bulk import of LNG in the country on emergent basis particularly the construction of terminal facility at Port Qasim i.e jetty, fixed or floating terminal and related infrastructure, it might not be possible to ensure import of LNG within expected time of December 2012. The government is interested to utilise the terminal of Pro Gas, which in fact needs some necessary measures and related infrastructure immediately. Further, provision of sovereign guarantee to Qatar also requires amendments in LNG Policy 2011and established trade mechanism of the country as well. Official sources in Petroleum Ministry on the condition of anonymity said that after finding impossibility in the timely import of LNG with private importers, government has now decided to go for govt to govt direct trade of LNG.

While setting aside the provision of LNG Policy 2011, a special committee established by the Prime Minister first time met on Tuesday under the chair Dr Asim Hussain to formulate practical recommendations for Gas Load Management in winter 2011-12. Ch. Ahmad Mukhtar Minister Defence, Syed Naveed Qamar Minister for Water & Power, Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah Minister for Religious Affairs, Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, Senior officers of Cabinet Division, Finance Division, Industries Division, Water and Power Division and Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources attended the meeting.

The committee was informed that the demand of natural gas has increased three to four times in winter as compared to summer. During the first week of January 2012 SNGPL is facing a total shortfall of 735 mmcfd, while SSGC experiencing a shortfall of 376 mmcfd.