'Help us finance Assam gas pipeline!' Sonowal

Vol 20, PW 21 (13 Jul 17) Midstream & Downstream

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has thrown his weight behind a 750-km gas pipeline from Barauni in Bihar to state capital Guwahati.

Last month (June) Sonowal met oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan with a request that Delhi make up any funding shortfall (otherwise know as 'viability gap funding') for the estimated Rs3000cr ($463m) venture that will bring up to 12m cm/d of R-LNG into the north-eastern state, possibly even R-LNG from Dahej on the west coast. Apparently the meeting was a success.

"Pradhan has agreed in-principle to provide the funding," confirms a source in Sonowal's office. An Assam Gas source adds that company managing director Aditya Kumar Sharma met Sonowal in Guwahati on July 7 to press the case for Delhi's support.

"We want 'viability gap funding' because it is a costly project," said a source. "If UP can have a farm loan waiver why can't the northeast have viability gap funding?" In April (2017) Uttar Pradesh's BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath announced a massive Rs36,359 cr ($5.6 bn) loan waiver for farmers.

Some stretches of the pipeline, which will pass through difficult terrain in West Bengal, are estimated to cost as much as Rs5cr/kilometre ($771,800). Assam Gas directors gave their in-principle go ahead for the project on June 28 but others are less keen.

Only GAIL and IndianOil responded to the PNGRB by the June 25 deadline for its 30-day consultation.