KARACHI: It is ironic that the massive hike of up to 213.7% in gas prices comes at a time when Pakistan is facing gas outages as demand has exceeded supply following an abrupt drop in temperature in different parts of the country.
The situation resulted in long queues outside tandoors due to low gas pressure at residences and prompted Karachi-based Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) to suddenly suspend supplies to CNG fuel stations in Sindh and Balochistan to keep supplies to households normal on Tuesday. SSGC supplies gas to consumers in two provinces - Sindh and Balochistan. SNGPL provides gas in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
An SSGC spokesperson said that a sudden and massive surge in gas demand came from Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan, following a significant drop in temperature and strong cold breeze in the city and other parts of the country. Quetta recorded minimum temperature of seven-degree Celsius on Tuesday, according to the weather website timeanddate.com.
“Gas remains a lifeline and a question for survival for the people in Quetta as they use the fuel to operate heaters and geysers,” he said.
“Demand for gas from Quetta surged to around 150 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) compared to around 50 mmcfd during summer,” he said. Similarly, demand for gas from the entire province of Balochistan surged to around 200-250 mmcfd compared to around 75-100 mmcfd during the summer season.
In total, SSGC faced a shortfall of around 400 mmcfd as demand peaked at around 1,500 mmcfd compared to supplies of around 1,160 mmcfd in the system from gas fields in Sindh and Balochistan, the official said.
“Supply of gas to industrial areas remained unaffected as SSGC managed to provide uninterrupted gas supply to industries and residential areas by suspending supplies to CNG fuel stations,” he said.
An SNGPL official added that there were no total blackouts in Punjab and K-P, but “some of the areas, especially in the tail, complained of a drop in gas pressure. Our teams promptly addressed the complaints to restore supplies to normal.”
The two provinces on the SNGPL network saw a drop in temperature, which slightly impacted supplies to some of the areas, he said.
“Total gas supplies on the SNGPL network stands somewhere around 3,000 mmcfd, including 900-950 mmcfd locally produced gas and over 2,000 mmcfd imported one - re-gasified liquefied natural gas (RLNG),” he said. The official said the shortfall was not significant on the SNGPL network. It, however, remained unknown till the filing of this story.
The system saw gas shortfall on the day when the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) approved an increase in gas prices by up to 213% for the end-consumers including commercial and industrial consumers like cement and fertiliser plants.
This is the second surge in gas prices during the ongoing fiscal year 2019-20 under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2019.
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