WITH an addition of 300,000 gas consumers every year, the country’s gas shortage is estimated to touch four billion cubic feet per day (bcfd), almost equal to current total supplies in two years and will go beyond 6.6bcfd by 2030. The projection has been made by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) in its ‘State of the Industry Report 2016-17’. The report also noted a 16 per cent surge in petroleum consumption owing to an increase in the number of cars, motorbikes and lower oil prices as overall oil consumption rose by 10pc.
The present government indeed took some practical measures including the import of LNG from Qatar and development of two LNG handling terminals at Karachi port to mitigate gas shortage in the country. Quite recently, the government also signed an agreement with Indonesia for the import of LNG during the visit of Indonesian President to Islamabad. To some extent, these measures have helped address woes of domestic and industrial consumers but the fact remains that people in certain areas are still faced with low or zero pressure in the winter season. The problem of gas shortage as also indicated by the OGRA report will grow further in the years to come and the situation warrants steps on a war footing to lessen its effects on the economy already faced with many challenges. Relying only on imports will only put pressure on the foreign reserves. Therefore it is imperative that government encourages exploration of indigenous resources on large scale to meet the future demands. According to some estimates, there are recoverable shale gas reserves of 105 trillion cubic feet and more than nine billion barrels of oil in Pakistan. Given the abundance of shale gas and being environment friendly and cost effective, its exploration and production can transform the country’s economy. We therefore urge the government to pay immediate attention towards the exploration of this important source for energy security. The shale gas has brought a revolution in the US and it can be replicated in our country as well with the right kinds of policies and interventions. With this, the gas distribution companies also need to improve their transmission systems in order to avoid leakages, theft and pilferage.