This is the fundamental question posed by millions of Pakistanis who are directly and indirectly affected by the ‘price change’ and ‘availability’ of the transportation fuel. Who are these people? They are the lower and middle income class a) who use CNG as transportation fuel for personal usage in the car b) who use public/private transport for daily commute bus/rickshaw and taxis. c) Transporters, who use CNG to run rickshaws, taxis and buses as a cheaper fuel compared to diesel and petrol. d) Owners of CNG stations of sell CNG.
What is the Current Issue?
CNG PRICE / SUPPLY:
Recently, the Supreme Court in one of the cases told the government that determination of price of petrol and CNG should not be in the same frequency.
Logic: Petrol is imported; price changes internationally on a daily basis therefore, price of petrol in Pakistan, has to be changed also. However, change is not daily but twice in a month to give relief to consumer yet keep the real cost closer. But gas is locally produced and converted to CNG so there is no need to change it with the same frequency.
Also, the determination of CNG price in the same case somehow led to the decision of decreasing the recent price by as much as 40% by the government.
This decision was not met well by the suppliers of CNG who have started shutting down their stations and have stopped selling cheap fuel if the government does not raise its price.
On the other hand, the government has strictly said ‘no’ to the demands of the suppliers while planning to revoke their supply-licenses if they don’t abide by the decisions. Also, the government plans to phase out CNG as fuel in the next 3-4 years.
Death by CNG:
The Fuel is not really the killer but its handling. There is a rising trend of deaths by defective CNG cylinders/kits. Every other day, a van, a bus or a car catches fire due to leakage of CNG cylinder, which is fitted in the vehicle without a quality check. While petrol/diesel tanks can also be dangerous, getting burned by CNG is becoming a daily phenomenon.
Is current issue of Lower Price/Deaths the REAL PROBLEM?
The answer lies in understanding the source of CNG which is Natural Gas.
Natural Gas in Pakistan and the depleting fields:
CNG is made from Natural Gas commonly known as ‘Sui Gas’ in Pakistan. It is used in our homes to cook meals, geysers for hot water etc. It is used in industries as a raw material e.g. fertilizer OR used to produce electricity e.g. textile and other industries. But its usage depends on the availability and supply which is coming to an end.
Sui Gas field was discovered in 1952 and after 60 years of service to the nation the wells are depleting (in simple words: No gas for fuel) and as per the Adviser to PM on Petrol and Natural Resources, they will deplete by 2022. So the nation has about 10 more years of free flow of gift from our homeland (literally too).
Why are we not exploring more Gas fields in Pakistan?
OGDC and other companies do that (which is one of their prime goals) but unfortunately with not much success. The annual target of OGDC is around 40-50 wells but very few wells have been dug up successfully plus the security situation in Baluchistan does not help either.
Can’t we import? What about gas from Iran (Iran Pakistan gas pipeline), Turkmenistan or other countries?
Yes, we can import and since the last ten years or so both the current and previous governments have tried to import gas from Iran, Turkmenistan, and now India from land and from Qatar through sea. None have been successful so far and even if we do start getting gas from let say Iran or India, we will never achieve the same levels of Gas.
Can CNG also be made from LNG? Where is Pakistan on this issue?
Yes, this is another solution to the issue. LNG stands for ‘Liquefied Natural Gas’ that is made by converting gas into liquid. The exporting country let say Qatar is one of the major LNG producers that sell gas to many countries like India. What happens is that from the Qatar gas field, a pipeline is made till a sea port in Qatar, where in a conversion plant; natural gas is converted from gas to LNG. This LNG is filled in a ship (esp. made to transport LNG) which takes it to India. On Indian port, there is a LNG conversion terminal which changes LNG back to natural gas. This gas then enters the main national grid and is used as natural gas.
However, the Pakistani government’s top priority to acquire LNG is for electricity production. The upcoming supply of LNG if possible, will be given to utility companies to produce electricity from gas converted from LNG, instead of using expensive thermal fuel option. So, as far as CNG from LNG is concerned in the near future, it is on the back burner.
Why was CNG sold to me (consumer) in the first place? Wasn’t it advertised as a ‘Cheap Fuel’ as compared to conventional petrol/diesel?
This question needs to be answered by policy makers. Even though CNG is still cheaper, yet the knowledge of gas depleting was available too. Even during the present government’s tenure, thousands of CNG station licenses were given to supply CNG!
I have tried to summarize the issue as much as possible and hope you get the answer to the fundamental question in your mind, ‘Should I stop using CNG’ because in the long term, you will not be asking , ‘should I’ but doing the remaining bit. .