ISLAMABAD - The ministry of petroleum has failed to resolve the mystery of signing of $16 billion LNG agreement as everyone in ministry seems perturbed over the news but has failed to come up with a clarification despite passage of 48 hours.

Breaking news by a foreign news agency, which claimed that Pakistan signed a LNG deal with the Qatar Gas, took everyone by surprise that how can a minister sans the approval of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) or Cabinet sign $16 billion or more than Rs 1600 billion deal.

Individually, the high officials of the ministry of petroleum are denying the news but no one is ready to face the media. Even the spokesperson of the ministry was not responding to the calls and SMS of this scribe. “Signing a deal in such a haste will be nothing but inviting the investigation of the National Accountability Bureau, as such a big deal cannot be finalized without taking the approval of the appropriate forum,” an official of the ministry told The Nation.

On November 9, a news agency quoting the federal minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Pakistan has finalised a 15-year, $16 billion LNG deal and shipments are expected to begin next month.

“We have finalised the deal. The first shipment is expected in December,” the news agency quoted the minister as saying. When asked if the news of LNG agreement with Qatar is false or not and why high officials of the ministry are not bothered to issue a clarification, the official said: “The senior most officers of the ministry don’t have time to look after the important matters of the ministry, as they are busy in looking after the matters of private companies,”.

“One senior most officer of the ministry of petroleum is serving as a member of board of directors with four different oil and gas companies,” the official said. “As board members of private companies, these officials are making handsome money. These officials even don’t have time to listen to the important problems of the junior officials,” the source claimed.

It is pertinent to mention here that the energy experts have recommended the government to import LNG only if it is 20 to 30 percent cheaper than furnace oil otherwise replacing it with diesel for thermal power generation will be worthless.

Energy-hungry Pakistan is going to have a long-term contract with the Qatari government for the import of the LPG soon, and Islamabad is expecting to make this deal below $7/MMBtu. Its volume will be 1.5 million tons per annum (MTPA) of LNG with increase of three MTPA in three years. According the government estimates, the country requirements will be around 15 MTPA in next five to six years.

Around half of the country’s primary energy source is natural gas, but unfortunately its supply is 4000 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) against demand of the 6000 MMCFD. Currently, around 2000 megawatts of power plant are idle. In Pakistan, the unconstrained demand for gas is estimated to be 8,000 MMCFD or more than double of the current domestic production.