Overcoming gas shortage in Sindh
Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) has informed the consumers that gas supply from Bhit field, supplying 345 mmcfd would be curtailed up to 60 per cent for 24 days, starting from April 11 to May 4 on account of its annual turn around. It has also requested the consumer to contain usage and wastages for avoiding prolonged hours of load shedding. SSGC sought cooperation of consumers as and when any of the field supplying gas closes or curtails supplies during annual turn around. Taking the consumers in confidence has kept consumers' woes at the minimum and caused least disruption in economic activities.
Initially, ENI had planed complete shutdown of the field but SSGC was able to persuade it to maintain supplies through at least one production train thus ensuring at least 40 per cent supplies to which ENI also agreed. Despite that SSGC would have to undertake load shedding to meet the short fall of more than 200mmcfd. The three bulk customers which are likely to be most affected would be WAPDA, Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim and KESC as their gas supplies would be curtailed. SSGC has already informed these customers well ahead to make alternative arrangements.
However, one point must be kept in mind that power generation companies have the second option but fertilizer companies have no option but to run the plant at lower capacity utilization. It must also be kept in mind that any curtailment of gas supply to fertilizer plants has two adverse outcomes 1) no substantial increase in power generation is achieved and 2) waste of foreign exchange on import of fertilizer and also payment of millions of rupees subsidy. The cost of imported urea is almost double the cost of indigenously produced one.
Similarly, running of KESC's power plants on furnace oil during reduced gas supply becomes punitive for consumers. There can't be two opinions that running thermal plants on furnace oil is more expensive as compared to operating on gas. Therefore, residents of Karachi will not be wrong in demanding the federal and/or provincial governments to pay the difference between cost of furnace oil and gas.
Some critics may oppose the idea but they must take into account that one of the key reasons of high pilferage of electricity in the country is high electricity tariff. It is on record that persistent hike in tariff has proliferated electricity theft. Therefore, making the cost affordable will encourage the consumers to get their connection regularised and also pay the bills.
Consumers, in their own interest must also conserve gas to contain its load shedding. They must also keep in mind that if they do not conserve gas they could also face situation similar to the one faced by the consumers in Punjab. Last but not the least the government must finalize import of gas to overcome the seasonal short supplies.