Impossible to meet new pipeline completion deadline

Vol 10, PW 25 (19 Apr 07) Midstream & Downstream

GAIL is up against a new, impossible deadline for completion of the Dahej to Uran and Dabhol to Panvel pipelines.

The original deadline of 31st March has passed with the pipeline far from ready, and replaced by a new deadline of 22nd May. This deadline was given on 10th April, just a day before GAIL was ordered to stop work in Gujarat (see above), during a meeting convened by cabinet secretary BK Chaturvedi to discuss the Bawana power project.

"The pipelines were also reviewed at this meeting,â€‌ says a source, “and GAIL was given the new deadline." Short of a miracle, GAIL will be unable to meet this new deadline either, unless Delhi steps in decisively and orders Gujarat authorities to back off. GAIL's troubles come despite assiduous efforts to appease state authorities.

Four weeks ago chairman UD Choubey called on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for help in breaking the stalemate over the pipeline route through Surat. Choubey asked that the pipeline be allowed to run along the original route but received no firm assurance.

Faced with increasing local resistance, GAIL decided to take a 15-km detour. "On the original route there were two crossings, now there are three," we hear.

"GAIL had to start the process of RoU acquisition all over again." More, the new route is along marshy land owned by the state government. In contrast, the Maharashtra situation has eased considerably, thanks to active support from state authorities.

"Our only problem in Maharashtra is the rocky terrain," says GAIL. "We had to do more than 1-km of horizontal drilling and encountered some of the toughest rock in the world.

In Maharashtra we anticipated the work so there are no surprises. But the Gujarat problem is worrying us.

It could become worse and linger." This week the pipeline is set to cross the Vashista river near the Dabhol power station.