Down on energy: Gas crisis jolting industry, domestic consumers
In view of the severe gas crisis in the country, there is a fear that the textile industry in Punjab will be shut down. Experts in the gas sector in Pakistan have confirmed that the gas crisis is likely to intensify due to the government’s failure to make timely plans and decisions.
Gas plays an important role in the country’s economy and exports. Its load shedding causes productive losses to industries. The textile industries are running 24 hours a day and 360 days a year on the basis of production capacity.
Even on national and religious holidays, workers are not allowed to stop the wheel of industry by being given double overtime to allow timely shipment of export orders. But the current gas crisis has severely affected the productivity of industries as most of the textiles mills generate their electricity from gas.
The country’s production of gas, gauged at 4,300 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd), plunges in winter to 3,300 mmcfd. The demand, which is around 6,500-7,000 mmcfd, rises to 8,000 mmcfd in winter. Therefore, there is a shortage of 4,000 to 5,000 mmcfd.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the nation recently, had predicted a severe shortage of gas in the country this winter.
For the past several years, domestic and commercial consumers in Pakistan have been facing shortage of gas in winter due to which supply of gas to domestic consumers has been reduced. As a result the supply of gas to domestic consumers is reduced. On the other hand, industry and trade face gas cut-off.
With the supply of gas to domestic consumers, the national economy relies heavily on gas to meet its energy needs. These range from gas-fired power plants, gas consumption for industrial production to supply of gas to CNG stations for use as fuel in vehicles.
With the onset of winter in the country, gas consumption also increased, with the use of gas-powered heaters and geysers in the northern part of the country increasing the rate of gas consumption by domestic consumers.
The government has also given a concessional package to domestic and commercial consumers to use electricity instead of gas in winter, in which it has announced reduction in electricity rates from November 1 to the end of February. The country is forecast to face severe gas shortages in the coming days.
In order to meet the gas demand in the country where gas is produced locally, imported gas is also included in the system as local gas production in Pakistan is unable to meet the domestic demand and domestic gas. It is also witnessing a steady decline in its reserves. While imported gas has been the subject of controversy and allegations of corruption and mismanagement against imported gas have been heard consistently.
All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) Chairman Abdul Rahim Nasir laments the suspension of electricity and gas supply to the industries, maintaining that it has choked the production activities of the textile sector of the country especially in Punjab.
“The mills are on the brink of closure due to non-availability of energy which is resulting in loss of export orders and sacking of workers. The Ministry of Energy abruptly suspended gas supply to the textile sector,” he adds.
Nasir also urges Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene and direct the relevant authorities to resolve the issue on an immediate basis. He regrets that relevant departments had turned a deaf ear to the problem. He maintains the industries of the province were hit the hardest as they faced an increase in the gas tariff from $6.5 to $9 per million British thermal units (mmbtu) besides load shedding.
Energy Minister Hamad Azhar reportedly told the parliament that gas will be provided three times a day during winter. According to him, consumers will be provided gas during breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the day. “The government would try to provide gas to domestic consumers and the industrial sector,” he added.
However, contrary to his statement, the federal minister retweeted a message posted on his ministry’s social networking site, stating that the reports in media regarding supply of gas to domestic consumers three times a day are baseless. No such decision has been taken by the Ministry of Energy as the Ministry of Energy has issued instructions to Sui Northern Gas Company to supply gas to domestic consumers at meal times.
When asked about the shortage of gas and its supply, Razzaq Dawood, trade adviser to the prime minister, said that the supply of gas to domestic consumers would be ensured. “I would try to ensure supply of gas to industries especially export sector,” he said.