ISLAMABAD: Talks between Pakistan and Qatar over the price for liquefied natural gas (LNG) have reached a deadlock as the latter is stuck to its stance and is not ready to supply gas at less than $18 per million British thermal units (mmbtu).
“Qatar has refused to export LNG below the price of $18 per mmbtu,” said a senior official of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources who is familiar with the developments.
Pointing to the reason, he said global LNG demand had surged and prices had increased following shutdown of nuclear power plants in Japan.
In comparison, gas import from Iran will cost $11 per mmbtu while gas supply through Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline will cost $13 per mmbtu.
“Following Qatar’s reluctance to show flexibility, Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain will visit Malaysia to discuss the possibility of LNG import,” the official said.
Last month, a government delegation went to Qatar to finalise a price for the import of LNG on government-to-government contract. Pakistan and Qatar have already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard.
According to the MoU, Pakistan will import 500 million cubic feet of LNG per day (mmcfd) which will be utilised to generate 2,500 megawatts of electricity.
Earlier, in a meeting of Pak-Qatar Joint Ministerial Commission held in the last week of February in Islamabad, Qatar sought a price of $18 per mmbtu, but Pakistani authorities believed that Doha would show flexibility in its stance later. Qatar also sent a term sheet seeking $18 per mmbtu for LNG.
In the meeting, the two sides decided to finalise the price of LNG within three months. As a follow-up, Pakistani officials visited Qatar and held meetings there.
Private sector importers have already sought $18 per mmbtu for LNG supply, but this has invited a lot of criticism from different quarters. Even the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) has opposed this high price and called for discussing the matter in the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). Buyers of gas, including power companies, have also rejected such a high rate.
According to sources, the petroleum ministry has prepared a summary for the ECC which will discuss initiation of an integrated LNG import project. They say the government will furnish guarantees and receive gas from the parties qualified through a bidding process.
This is what private LNG importers had desired. Under this plan, imported LNG will be injected into pipelines of gas distributors – Sui Northern Gas Pipelines and Sui Southern Gas Company – and the government will take a weighted average price of gas.
As a result, the ministry official said, prices of domestic gas are expected to rise to $9 per mmbtu against existing $4.5 per mmbtu, which will affect all categories of consumers.
“The price of furnace oil is equal to $20 per mmbtu, therefore, LNG price of $18 per mmbtu is affordable for the industry,” an official said but added the industry, which was getting local gas at cheaper rates, was not ready to buy expensive LNG.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2012.