LAHORE - Depletion of indigenous fields and slow pace of work by government on import of natural gas will double the existing gap between demand and supply in coming years, experts have feared.

Other factors contributing to the widening gap are unwise use of gas by consumers, theft and leakage in company network, increase in gas demand due to expansion in pipeline network and no major addition in local gas resources. The SNGPL, which covers 70 per cent consumers of the country, is predicting the gap 1600MMCFD in 2015. The company is receiving some 1400MMCFD from gas fields.

“The gap between demand and supply of gas is likely to increase from 1445 million cubic feet per day to 1600MMCFD in next year at SNGPL’s network. The demand is hovering around 2991MMCFD which will touch 3007MMCFD in 2015-16,” SNGPL officials informed this scribe.

The complaints of low gas pressure would be coming from the domestic sector even in next year summers and the governmental inattention would worsen the situation in coming years, they held.

An energy expert said, “Natural gas meets 49 per cent of total energy requirements in the country. Due to the relatively lower price of natural gas and indiscriminate use of compressed natural gas (CNG) by transport sector, the consumption of gas has substantially increased. Pakistan consumes all the indigenously produced gas while the pace of developing new gas fields is slow.”

He further adds the increasing demand for gas by domestic sector, transport sector and for power generation has created a demand-supply gap that has eventually led to massive cuts in gas supply to industry, the power sector and CNG stations but domestic users are the worst sufferers.

An ex-official of SNGPL, talking to TheNation on IP and TAPI projects, said: “Pakistan has been negotiating with states to import natural gas to meet the increasing demand. In this regard, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan (IP) are two proposed pipeline projects.

TAPI is a gas pipeline project that the government has considered seriously but, given the complexity of issues involved in the actualisation of the project, the future of TAPI does not seem promising.

The government has so far been reluctant towards the import of gas from Iran, while the TAPI only exists on paper. There is speedy work on construction of LNG terminals but its price and quantity are not looking feasible to meet the demand of end consumers, the official adds.

The precarious security situation in Afghanistan and the uncertain post-2014 withdrawal scenario pose questions about the ability of the Afghan security forces to guarantee the security of the pipeline. Apart from security considerations, India-Pakistan rivalry may have a negative impact on the pipeline project as it has been the case in the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline project. These factors make TAPI a less attractive option in the near future. The much debated IP gas pipeline project, since its inception, has been mired in controversies, the official further said.

The SNGPL is currently receiving some 1500MMCFD to meet the demand of the domestic, commercial, industrial consumers and power plants in Punjab, KP, AJK, Islamabad and FATA. Only the winter requirement from domestic consumers exceeds 1000MMCFD and resultantly the company has to shutdown supply to other sectors. The existing fields are Gurguri, MOL, Mela, Nashpa, Salsbil, Sui, Kandkot, Mari, Zamzama, Qadirupur, Badar, Hassan, Rehmat, Saqib, Sawan, Tajjal and Latif. The SSGC, which distribute gas to Sindh and Balochistan, is also hardly meeting the demand of consumers in its limits.

The officials said that the demand was exceeding 400MMCFD per year and existing availability lowered almost 150MMCFD per year only at the SNGPL’s network. “The situation is horrible and if things would not improve, the gas crisis would be worst in coming days,” they said.