'Flood Gates' open as PNGRB consults on LNG

Vol 24, PW 19 (12 Aug 21) Midstream, Downstream, Renewables

Some blame road transport minister Nitin Gadkari for the angry letters pouring into the PNGRB over its controversial move to allow companies to set up LNG stations in already-awarded CGD areas.

By July 26 (2021), the PNGRB had received 543 comments from stakeholders: 495 from ceramic factories in Morbi in Gujarat, 22 from city gas retailers and 26 from others. They follow the PNGRB's June 30 (2021) notice inviting public consultation on three contentious areas: the establishment of LNG stations in any location, irrespective of CGD area boundaries; gas supply, including LNG, through cylinders on trucks instead of through pipelines; and the interpretation of 'exclusivity' in a city gas retail network.

"Never has the PNGRB seen such a response," admits a PNGRB source. "It was like opening the flood gates of a dam; we had to assign extra staff to monitor the inflow of 20 comments a day and to process the back-office work associated with this high response."

Some also blame former PNGRB chairman DK Sarraf and outgoing member monitoring and commercial Satpal Garg for the controversy after they issued a notice on June 2 (2020) that companies could set up LNG stations anywhere. But a source in Gandhinagar traces the blame back to road transport minister Nitin Gadkari.

He alleges Gadkari pressurised former oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who put pressure on Sarraf and Garg, to introduce the LNG move. "The way Sarraf and Garg rushed it through last May and June (2020) is suspicious," contends a leading city gas retailer.

"On the one hand, you have city gas retailers who don't want other companies setting up LNG stations in their areas," says a source. "On the other, you have large gas consumers like the Morbi ceramics industry who want access to LNG."

Another CGD source adds: "This is just the beginning; expect more trouble when the new [PNGRB] chairman [Sanjeev Sahai] takes over."