Encouraging development for energy sector
The discovery of new gas reserves in Sindh province is encouraging in the scenario that needle gas reserves are rapidly depleting. Although gas is being obtained from wells at many places, it is still less than the country's needs.
There are high hopes from Tharkol in this regard but it will take time to achieve remarkable results. Now the local petroleum company has started gas production from Ghazij 2 well, so we can expect some difference in the demand and supply of gas in winter, while there is news of gas discovery from Ghazij 1 well last month.
Although oil and gas exploration has been going on for a long time in Pakistan, the country's needs demand that these efforts should be increased manifold.
The projects of TAPI (Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India) gas pipeline and Iran Pakistan pipeline are very important in terms of energy requirements.
The TAPI project has been delayed for a long time due to the situation in Afghanistan, but after the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and the coming to power of the Taliban government, progress in this regard should be seen in practice.
Pak-Iran Gas Pipeline Project 2009, since the signing, has been pending due to US sanctions. In November 2022, Iran had asked Pakistan to either start construction of a 781-km long gas pipeline in its territory by February-March 2024 or be ready to pay a fine of $18 billion.
Pakistan is now requesting Iran to relax the deadline for the construction of the gas pipeline, however, if no positive way is found in the negotiations between the two countries, a difficult situation may arise for Pakistan.
However, both the country's needs and the economy demand that more attention be paid to domestic oil and gas exploration.
At time when the country is faced with unprecedented energy woes, the discoveries of new gas reserves in Sindh is something to rejoice.
Almighty Allah has enriched Pakistan with countless mineral resources, including deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, limestone, chromite, copper, gypsum, salt, marble, gold, etc. These mineral resources play an important role in promoting rapid economic and industrial development. Internal and external companies are also exploring oil, gas and other mineral deposits in the homeland. New gas deposits have been discovered in Kirthar block of Dadu district of Sindh. Initially, this well will yield 7.8 mmscf of gas per day. Recently, large oil and gas reserves have also been discovered in Waziristan, Kirk and Dera Ismail Khan regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, from which 39.12 million cubic feet of gas and 1840 barrels of oil can be extracted per day. Before this, apart from Sui, gas is being extracted from 13 places in Sindh and Potohar. Discovery and exploitation of new reserves will help reduce dependence on oil and gas imports and save valuable foreign exchange. About 35% of Pakistan's energy needs are met by gas. Gas is used as fuel, and in generation and manufacturing of cement, chemical fertilizer, thermal power generation apart from general factories. According to an estimate, the ratio of gas production is 70% in Sindh, 12% in Balochistan, 10% in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 8% in Punjab. Although mineral deposits have been discovered across the country, there are opportunities to find more, which need to be given full attention to the facilities of finding and making them usable.
Meanwhile, the reliance on own resources can also provide relief from external debt. The work on the project to bring the gas reserves discovered in North Waziristan and Frontier Region Betni into the national system has been stopped for months. Following the discovery of gas and oil reserves here in September 2021, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited on June 17 last year announced plans to lay a 295-km long pipeline to bring gas from the fields to the company's transmission net injection point or gas system. was approved. The project costing Rs 23.4 billion was expected to be completed by June 2023. However, the people of Bakakhel Tehsil of Bannu District stopped the construction work on July 24 in protest against the project.
On the other hand, last year, the government entered into petroleum concession accords and gave exploration licences to a number of energy companies to investment a minimum $65 million in the first three years of exploration work to explore new oil and gas reserves. The irony is that work on such projects is slow and needs to be accelerated.
On the other hand, the economists say that Pakistan will have to also look into alternative sources of energy like the Solar and wind power which are not only cheaper but also available in abundance. A recent report by the World Bank says that there is an urgent need for expanding the Solar and wind power in Pakistan at least by 30 percent of energy consumption in the country to overcome the energy woes. Another report said that Pakistan can easily secure around twenty per cent of total power consumption from solar energy, wind and other renewable resources of energy and for that it will have to focus on the on existing substations forthwith as there is an urgent need for doing so. It is welcome to note that already a good number of power consumers are shifting to solar energy to overcome the rising budgets and also to avoid the long spells of load shedding, especially in summer months.
Against this backdrop, it has become necessary to focus on renewable energy resources to avoid the impeding catastrophe due to the gas and electricity prices which are going to have a multi-pronged impact on the lives of consumers including the shopkeepers, business persons as also the domestic consumers. On the other hand, solar energy is also environment-friendly and in the awake of climate change effects on Pakistani which is among the ten most vulnerable countries in this regard, the government must ensure strategy to attract consumers to renewable energy resources which are comparatively cheaper sources of energy. In this backdrop, the new gas discoveries should also be given due attention. It can provide new venues and can help control the energy crisis to some extent as can overcome the gap between supply and demand of gas from indigenous resources. Likewise, it will enhance the capacity of the hydrocarbon reserves base of the country which is in grip of energy crisis.
Published in The Daily National Courier, November, 17 2023