New Delhi: In a surprise development, the government wants Reliance Industries to cut gas output from its eastern offshore KG-D6 fields so that imported fuel stocks can be sold in the country.
Petronet LNG Ltd, which imports gas in its liquid form (liquefied natural gas) from Qatar on a long-term contract, is facing a glut after three fertiliser plants that used LNG as feedstock shut down for maintenance and a power plant owned by NTPC tripped.
Also, NTPC’s Dadri plant is to undergo a shutdown from tomorrow.
The schedule for outgo of gas from Petronet’s Dahej import terminal in Gujarat was less than the inflow, creating a backlog of 75 million cubic meters or 96% of inventory limit, according to minutes of a meeting held in Oil Ministry last week to find solution to the problem.
The problem has been complicated by Petronet’s decision to lease out Dahej terminal to Gujarat State Petroleum Corp (GSPC) for import of 9 cargos or shipload of LNG even though state gas utility GAIL India did not have capacity in pipeline to evacuate any gas beyond the domestic production and already contracted long-term LNG.
While the Ministry did not ask Petronet to defer import of LNG - Petronet’s contract with RasGas of Qatar has provisions to defer any cargo(s) and take their deliveries later during the year, it wanted domestic gas production to be cut to accommodate the expensive LNG.
“Reliance may examine whether it would be possible to cutback the production from KG-D6 fields by some amount for a short period,” the meeting decided, according to the minutes.
By asking Reliance to cut output, the ministry hopes it can push the imported gas to customers using KG-D6 gas.
Industry observers expressed surprise at the decision saying imported expensive gas was being prioritised over cheaper domestic gas. “The priority should be to use cheaper fuel first and use expensive gas later,” an official said.
Petronet’s imports from Qatar cost $5.42 per million British thermal unit (ex-Dahej), while KG-D6 gas is priced at $4.20 per mmBtu.
The 30 April meeting in the ministry also decided to set up “a coordination mechanism” between the domestic producers and Petronet so that commitment to buy overseas LNG is met.
Power and fertiliser plants prefer using KG-D6 gas as feedstock as it is not only cheaper but Reliance offers better commercial terms.
Sources said just before Reliance was to begin gas output from KG-D6 a year ago, the Ministry made key power and fertiliser plants to enter into a 10-year agreement to buy expensive LNG from Petronet on a take-or-pay commitment (take gas or pay for it).