ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s biggest natural gas reservoirs in Sui district of Balochistan will deplete by 2022, a top petroleum ministry official said, sparking concerns that the energy crisis would aggravate and haunt household consumers and the weakening industry alike.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain told a parliamentary panel here on Friday that gas wells in Sui were already drying up and production was going down at the rate of 5% a year.
“With this situation, what I can share with you is that reserves in Sui will exhaust in 10 years … we will have to look for other options before it happens,” the adviser suggested during a meeting of the National Assembly standing committee on inter-provincial coordination.
Hussain’s revelation comes at a time when the country is already facing a severe energy crunch with electricity shortfall crossing 5,000 megawatts and compressed natural gas (CNG) stations facing forced closure of up to three days a week.
Last year, the country saw the most violent energy riots in its history when thousands of angry household consumers took to the streets to protest unannounced and prolonged power outages, especially at meal time.
In the meeting, the committee members including Chairman Ahmadan Bugti expressed concern over the disclosure and asked the government to diversify the energy mix by exploiting other sources like wind and coal.
Some of them called for accelerating gas exploration not only in Sui and Dera Bugti districts, but also at other places in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa where the possibility of finding energy reserves existed.
“This is our suggestion, explore more locations for gas and exploit our assets of coal in Thar. This is the right answer to our energy challenges,” said MNA Nasir Ali Shah, a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker from Quetta.
Responding to the committee members’ queries, officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources said Balochistan got 12.5% royalty on gas. The amount was then spent by the provincial government and the ministry had nothing to do with it, they added.
“Where this amount goes, asks the chief minister of the province,” an official commented when asked how this money was spent.
Officials of Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) told the committee that gas production in Sui was falling by 5% every passing year and the reserves would wear out by 2022.
The PM adviser was of the view that the entire burden of development of the district producing gas should not be on companies as this was the reason foreign companies were shying away from investments. At least, 50% of gas royalty should be spent on development of the district concerned, he suggested.
MNA Nasir Shah pointed out that none from his constituency in Balochistan could get job under the Aghaz-e-Haqooq package the government announced about three and a half years ago.
The committee recommended reinstatement of 356 retrenched employees of oil companies and said their children should also have job quota.
Oil and Gas Development Company Managing Director Masood Siddiqi told the meeting that unskilled people from among the locals would be recruited on priority while appointment of skilled persons would be made only on merit.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.