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Piped gas: when will it reach our homes?
A consumer friendly initiative, Goa’s gas supply project for cooking, transport and industries needs to be speeded up instead of progressing at snail pace, says Shoma Patnaik

Piped gas: when will it reach our homes?

Of all the plans and schemes announced so far to boost Goa’s livability, a project that is hanging in the fray for too long is the natural gas pipeline related projects. 

Natural gas arrived in Goa in February 2013 with much promise. But four years down the line not much has come out of it. It was envisaged as clean fuel for cooking, transport and industrial use. However in reality neither households, local units nor the government has benefitted from it. Not surprisingly there are many residents and unit owners who are doubtful whether the project exists. For them piped gas for cooking or other purposes is turning out to be a pipedream despite Goa being on the natural gas supply map of India.

Goa Natural Gas (GNGPL) is the company responsible for marketing and distribution of natural gas to various end users and its chief executive officer, KK Sachdeva, says that, progress has been badly hit by delays in getting permissions from different authorities. Successive model code of conduct due to assembly and panchayat elections have slowed down pace, he says.

But Sachdeva is hopeful of things improving as recently the government appointed a nodal officer to co-ordinate with different departments for approvals. Moreover he has begun talks with MLAs of different constituencies and panchayats to drum up support.

Goa’s slow progress in passing on the benefits of natural gas to the people is in sharp contrast to Bengaluru where the natural gas pipeline (Gokak- Goa) was commissioned around the same time. In Bengaluru about 12,000 households are registered for piped natural gas (PNG) and many more are awaiting connections. Moreover a growing percentage of vehicles in the city have shifted to compressed natural gas (CNG) cylinders.

But comparisons are no good. And in explanation, Sachdeva says that dynamics of supply-distribution in the south city is vastly different from Goa. “In Bengaluru the project is done in a bigger way. It is a huge investment. Like what we are doing in Rs 100 crore they are doing in Rs 4,000- Rs 4,500 crore,” he says.

Sachdeva is concerned over the delay in setting the underground grid in place. His company is granted authorization from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) in the geographical area of north Goa and Ponda. The authorization received on June 24 2016 was through open bidding and it stipulates achievement of minimum work programme (MWP). The MWP requires supply of gas connections to 9,588 households after the necessary laying of pipelines. What’s more non-compliance will invite severe penalties from the regulatory board.

“Delay in the project getting off the ground is shifting focus from the real purpose of the project,” adds Sachdeva. He explains that, benefits of natural gas are being forgotten amidst discussions on expediting the work. “Our company wants to undertake awareness programmes, public meetings and consumer meetings to propagate the use of this environment friendly and economic fuel,” he says.

“Natural gas supplied via pipeline has host of benefits for users,” points out Videsh Gurudas Sangodkar, chief financial officer, Goa Natural Gas. “It is relatively economical, requires no storage space, minus the likelihood of diversion or pilferage and is with assurance of quantity and quality,” he says.

In household women are safeguarded from the danger of gas leakage and cylinder explosion. They are free from the trouble of booking a cylinder and enjoy ease of usage. For industries it is a cleaner fuel that is a replacement for polluting fuels like furnace oil, coal, husk, brickets, high speed diesel. And for transporters it is an altogether better as the emissions are non-polluting to the environment. “CNG emits significantly lower emission of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other particulate matters compared to motor spirit, diesel. It does not release carcinogenic in the air,” explain company officials.

Cost is the main factor for a average housewife and check out reveals that piped gas is cheaper that LPG cylinder. “It is about 20 per cent cheaper than a subsidized cylinder and 40 per cent cheaper than a non-subsidised LPG cylinder,” discloses Sangodkar. He adds, that while the company charges an upfront fee of Rs 5000 for initial installation of the pipeline in homes, the charges in Goa are going to be reduced to Rs 1,500 per household.

For vehicle owners using CNG cylinders the cost is 26 per cent cheaper than petrol. With minimum investment vehicles can be converted into dual fuel system.

To step up progress GNGPL is trying to get the city gas distribution project declared as public utility project. The company is also asked for waiver of upfront permission charges from the various authorities such as the GIDC, the PWD, NHAI, municipal bodies, etc.

The city gas distribution project comprises an underground network of pipelines supplying gas on tap to homes of residents, industrial estates and CNG filling stations . The pipeline will be laid via Kadamba Circle – NH66- Bambolim- Dona Paula- Miramar- Caranzalem- Taleigaon- Campal and densely populated, commercial areas of Panjim.  It will originate from the valve station at Marcaim, Kundaim industrial estate along GIDC road, PWD road and NH-4A

The project envisages laying of poly-ethylene pipes of 20 to 125mm size, about 1.0 to 1.2 meter below ground level with OFC cable along the roads to avoid cutting of roads to the maximum extent possible. It is assured that roads will be restored to its original condition after laying the pipeline at the company cost.

Residential complexes so far are treating piped cooking gas as a distant project. So to boost future demand the company is seeking for new residential colonies to compulsorily incorporate PNG supplies in line with water and electricity connections.

It is also asking for phasing out of old and polluting vehicles and replacement of the same by CNG vehicles as they compare favorably with diesel vehicles. The payback period for conversion is low, according to the company. To promote confidence among transporters, it is asked for testing of cylinders and maintenance by authorized dealers mandated by the transport department. The cylinders must have the stamp of safety and quality. Further the government must move towards procurement of CNG buses by the state road undertakings like KTC in a phased manner.

Meanwhile a check into the financial structure of the natural gas supply project reveals a total funding requirement of Rs 197.5 crore. Of which Rs 119.2 crore will be invested in the first five years for funding the MWP. The debt-equity requirement for the project is 70:30 which implies equity component of RS 36 crore. As of now the joint venture partners of GNGPL viz. Gail Gas and BPCL, will be contributing towards the equity capital. The Goa government 10 per cent stake in the company is as yet undecided.

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