The Punjab government has approached the federal government seeking exemption from gas outages for selected compressed natural gas (CNG) stations so they fill passenger buses without any interruption, sources say.
The request comes as the federal government considers stopping gas supply to CNG filling stations for three months in winter, a period when natural gas demand spikes sharply.
Punjab is already using services of 13 CNG stations in Lahore and eight outlets in the rest of the province to cater to gas needs of 482 buses. Besides regular supply, these stations also receive gas during outages with filling time from 10pm to 6am.
Apart from Lahore, buses get gas from the filling stations in Chunian, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Multan.
Now, the provincial government is planning to launch 500 more CNG buses on new routes of Phool Nagar, Jambar and Pattoki to shield commuters from possible inflationary effects in the wake of suspension of gas supply to vehicles for three months.
In order to run these buses, the province has sought permission to operate three more CNG stations with exemption from outages.
According to sources in the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) – the oil and gas sector regulator, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources has sought comments on gas supply to additional 500 buses during the gas holidays. The ministry will also seek approval from the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC).
Lahore Transport Company, which is run by the provincial government and is operating the said buses, had suggested that in order to utilise the buses optimally in winter the government should do away with the exclusive filling time limitation during gas holidays.
Rather, it said, selected CNG stations should be exempted from gas holidays and gas should be provided at adequate pressure.
According to Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), a CNG station owner in Sargodha has approached court to complain against discriminatory practices in supply of CNG to public transport vehicles.
In order to avert such lawsuits, officials say, the Ministry of Petroleum feels that Punjab should provide a long-term lease or guarantee in respect of dedicated CNG stations catering to demand of passenger vehicles. These stations, for which exemption is sought, will only supply gas to buses and their licences will be cancelled in case of violation.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2013.