Gas utility plans to collect extra billions from consumers

Published: November 26, 2019


ISLAMABAD: A public gas utility, which received an additional billions of rupees from domestic consumers by applying the gas pressure factor in winter last year, is going to adopt the same formula this season as well but will make the extra collection in summer.

According to officials, the high gas pressure factor puts domestic consumers into the next slab, which inflate their monthly bills.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the board of directors of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) was going to take up and approve the proposed plan of sending inflated bills to the gas consumers in summer by applying the gas pressure factor in winter.

“Discussion on the proposal is currently going on,” an SNGPL official said.

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Last year, the excessive bills sent by SNGPL had exposed the application of gas pressure factor on domestic consumers but this time it plans to put off additional collection in winter and make it in summer. This will reduce the impact on consumers as they receive lower gas bills in summer.

The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) had initiated a probe and sought details of the additional gas volumes charged from domestic consumers by SNGPL from July to December 2018.

The regulator also directed SNGPL to re-examine the application of correct pressure factor in gas bills of domestic consumers and make adjustment, if any, on this account to ensure compliance with clause 11 of the standard supply contract with the consumers.

Though the domestic consumers faced gas shortage in the winter season, they received inflated bills.

Ogra had pointed out earlier that the application of high pressure factor by the gas company was resulting in higher gas bills as it may push the consumers to the next billing slab.

Energy units based on average British thermal units (BTU) per cubic feet are calculated at the absolute pressure of 14.65 pounds per square inch (PSI) for the domestic consumers.

The high pressure factor is applied to only bulk consumers like fertiliser producers and captive power plants at 100 PSI. However, SNGPL is applying the pressure factor on the domestic consumers as well, which has resulted in higher monthly bills.

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Officials say SNGPL and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) have been able to show a reduction in unaccounted-for-gas (UFG) losses – gas theft and leakages – and increase in recoveries, by applying the gas pressure factor on consumers.

The two public gas utilities had sent inflated bills to 3.2 million consumers in the previous winter season because of a change in consumer slabs introduced by the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and manipulation of gas pressure factor in the case of domestic consumers.

The application of high pressure factor has forced many honest consumers, who pay their bills regularly, to bear an additional cost. Around 50% of domestic consumers have been overcharged illegally.

The government had written to SNGPL to return Rs2.3 billion to the consumers who had got inflated bills. However, the SNGPL board, dominated by private members, decided to challenge it in court.

“There’s a stay from the court on the matter,” said a spokesperson for the Petroleum Division, who is also on the SNGPL board, when asked for comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2019.

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