• Considering that the projected increase in domestic production of natural gas in India is set to decrease the burden of imports to much less than the current 50% of the total demand, the central government appears to have gone into overdrive in extending the facility of piped gas to cities, towns and villages across the country. Under the 10th round of bidding for city gas distribution (CGD), coming back to back with completion of the 9th round, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) estimates that it will be able to cover another 24% of the population in the country taking the total coverage in the next eight odd years to 70%.

The board on Thursday held a road show in Chandigarh to attract potential investors from the region to the 10th round of the nationwide bidding process which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 22. Briefing media persons after an interaction with the invitees to the road show, PNGRB Chairman DK Sarraf said 50 geographical areas (GAs) are being offered in the 10th round of bidding, covering 124 districts (112 in full and 12 in part) spread over 14 states, including Punjab and Haryana.

Photos By : Life In Chandigarh

So far PNGRB has given CGD authorisations in 10 GAs of Punjab covering 13 districts, and 3 more GAs, covering 6 other districts, are being offered in the state under the 10th round of bidding. In Haryana, CGD authorisations in 13 GAs covering 16 districts had already been given, and another 2 GAs covering 3 other districts are being offered under the latest round. “On conclusion of the 10th round of bidding expectedly by end February 2019, Punjab, Haryana and UT Chandigarh would be fully authorised for development of CGD networks,” Sarraf informed.

Giving a feel of the pace at which the CGD network was sought to be expanded in the country, he said 50% additional population would be covered within the next 8 years as compared to just 20% coverage under the network in the last few decades. The entire process of issuing Letters of Intent (LoIs) after receiving bids under the 9th round had been wound up within a month and in the 10th round too, the process will be concluded within three weeks of the last date of receiving bids, which is February 5, he added.

Advocating use of natural gas as a suitable alternative to coal and liquid fossil fuels in household use, transport, commercial undertakings and industry, Sarraf asserted that apart from natural gas being 60% cheaper than petrol and 45% cheaper than diesel, it was much more environmentally friendly with lesser carbon emissions. This was also in line with the country’s avowed mission of increasing the share of natural gas in its energy basket from 6.2% (as against 23.4% globally) to 15% by 2030 and reduce crude oil imports 10% by 2022, he added.

 In pushing the accelerator, the government is apparently targeting substantial employment generation as the 9th round of bidding is expected to crystalise investment to the tune of Rs 70,000 crore and the 10th round another Rs 50,000 crore.

Pitching piped gas supply as a more convenient fuel for household use in cities, towns and villages, Sarraf pointed out that natural gas was safer than LPG as it was lighter, dissipating in the air on pipeline leakage, and was 40@ cheaper than market rate of LPG supplied in cylinders and comparable to subsidised LPG.

The Chandigarh Story

The piped gas network is expected to be available across Chandigarh by the end of 2020 and the CNG stations in the city are also likely to increase to 11 from the current 6 by the end of the current financial year, with the ultimate target to raising their strength further to 27 by end of 2020. Representatives of Indian Oil-Adani Gas combine, which has been given the CGD authorisation for the geographical area of Chandigarh and around, said a 400 km long network of gas pipelines had already been laid in 20 sectors in the city south of the Dakshin Marg and 70,000 connections booked. In the next phase another 20 sectors between the Madhya Marg and Dakshin Marg will be covered and the entire city will be under their network by end of 2020.

Regarding the residents being inconvenienced by dug up streets not being restored due to lack of coordination with the municipal corporation, the company representatives said the issue is being sorted out with Chandigarh adopting the Punjab policy on the issue, and both digging and restoration work is now to be done by the Indian Oil-Adani Gas combine.

Efforts were also being made to speed up the process of opening more CNG stations in existing petrol pumps and increasing number of dispensers where these already existed, the company representatives assured, while admitting that serpentine queues at the current CNG stations were a cause for serious concern.