Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVIII No. 16, December 1-15, 2018

A TN gas network before long

- S. Viswanathan

Gujarat and Maharashtra and later Delhi realised the value of gas and built vast sectors of consumption that flourished. These include fertiliser plants, petrochemical units, power plants, LPG gas-fractionation, ceramics, glass units, transportation and piped supplies for domestic use. Gujarat imports gas through special port facilities and accounts for close to 60 per cent of the gas consumed in the country to great profit.

The public sector unit GAIL was entrusted with the task of building a national gas grid. GAIL pipelines convey gas imported at the Dabhol Port in Maharashtra to Goa and Karnataka. Similar facilities were created at the Kochi LNG terminal to meet the needs of Kerala, western Tamil Nadu and parts of Karnataka. The Tamil Nadu Government had stalled the construction of the pipeline from Kochi to Bengaluru passing through Tamil Nadu due to protest from around 4,000 farmers resisting passage through their lands.

The elegance and economics of gas as fuel/feedstock have been denied to industrial units in Tamil Nadu. In the 1970s and 1980s, Madras Fertilisers and SPIC were among the most profitable and prosperous of southern companies. These turned sick due to their inability to change their feedstock to gas.

Initially mooted by the Birlas, a LNG terminal at Ennore did not take off. Indian Oil has been constructing a 5 million tonne capacity LNG terminal at Ennore over the last four years.

The original cost estimated around Rs 4,300 crore has escalated due to the delay in constructing the LNG re-gasification and marine import facilities, construction of LNG storage tanks. Initially, the project was funded by Indian Oil Corporation along with the ICICI Bank and IDFC Bank. Petronet LNG Ltd, which has rich experience in handling LNG with its profitable operations in Gujarat, is reportedly interested in acquiring a stake in the project. Even while the facilities are getting ready and the project is expected to be commissioned in the next few months, the demand side for this precious product has not been fully taken care of. Nearby petrochemical units at Manali have potential for gas consumption.

But the pipeline to Manali even over a short distance of around 25 km, is not in position yet. A 1,000 MW LNG-based power plant adjacent to the terminal has also been mooted. But the scheme is just on paper.

The long cherished dream of Chennaiites to have piped gas supply for domestic use can be realised soon. There is also the potential to switch to LNG for public transportation. A potential for providing 45.5 lakh PNG connections and over 300 CNG stations has been estimated for Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts. If these can be extended to other parts of the State, there is potential for another 16 lakh domestic PNG connections and 550 CNG stations.

There are expectations for commissioning the facility in the next few months. With a spate of agitations holding up development projects across the.State, the issue of Indian Oil conveying the imported gas to different user industries needs to be attended to early.

With the elegance and economics of piped gas, the prospects should be specially appealing to the domestic consumers presently suffering frequent and steep increases in the prices of LPG. Piped gas will be far cheaper and will also reduce the cost and labour involved in filling, transporting, delivery and collecting several lakhs of steel cylinders! (Courtesy: Industrial Economist.)

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