Reason Behind Gas Loadshedding

Load shedding occurs when the demand for a particular energy resource far exceeds the supplier’s supplying capacity. It is common in emerging markets where the improving financial conditions improve the lives of the common people, who then start to live a more comfortable life and use more energy resources as compared to before.

One of the energy resources affected by this change in lifestyle, especially during winter, is natural gas.  Since gas suppliers are not able to meet the demand, they resort to gas load shedding thereby shutting down the supply of natural gas to the different areas of a distribution region. This enables some areas of the distribution region to receive full pressure gas. Gas load shedding is common in Pakistan compared to the rest of the world, and there are many reasons for it.

The major reason for gas load shedding is the increase in number of CNG stations all over Pakistan. During General Musharraf’s tenure as President of Pakistan, he implemented some new policies which resulted in gas shortage. Musharraf promoted use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as an alternative to petrol. Petrol was expensive, and wasn’t affordable for everyone. CNG was sold at almost half the price of petrol which loomed more people to use it instead of petrol. The government also started approval of CNG station licenses to ensure there were enough stations in every region to meet the demands. As a result, many people took this opportunity and set up CNG stations, and in some neighborhoods there were more CNG stations than the number of residents. This resulted in the residents of the area not receiving gas during high peak seasons.

Another policy implemented by the government which also resulted in gas load shedding was to authorize banks to approve auto loans to anyone who qualified. This made auto financing easier which resulted in many people getting approved for car loans and a high number of cars on the street. The new cars came fitted with CNG cylinders, which increased the number of CNG users and the demand for it.

Terrorism is another reason for gas load shedding. Pakistan’s biggest natural gas field is located in its western state of Baluchistan, which has been facing law and order crisis for quite some time. There is insufficient number of law personnel to protect the fields. As a result, terrorists are able to blow up gas pipelines without getting caught. This not only disturbs the gas supply of Baluchistan, but also causes the gas pressure to reduce in other parts of the country. Terrorist attacks have been going on for a while, and they are listed in the table below according to the year.

YearNumber of incidents
20055
200619
200731
200831
200929
20103
201152
201223
201310
201417

Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal

A number of steps have been taken by the government to end gas load shedding with one of them being importing gas from neighboring countries. Since Pakistan’s gas reserves are expected to finish up by 2030, importing gas was regarded as a good solution. Negotiations were held at government level between the governments to finalize sale and assurance of safe gas passage. Two different projects were negotiated; one was supply of gas from Iran to Pakistan, while the other was supply of gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan.

The Iran Pakistan India gas pipeline project was initiated in the early 2000s, but due to banking restrictions imposed on Iran by US and UN this project hasn’t progressed at the expected pace and also resulted in India’s withdrawal. The project is still continuing at a slow rate and it isn’t certain when it will be complete. Meanwhile, the Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India gas project doesn’t have any political restrictions and is being regarded as a project that will transform the region. Turkmenistan has started to construct its pipelines, and the project is expected to complete by 2017 barring any unforeseen delays. Whenever the project is complete, it will help to reduce Pakistan’s gas load shedding issue.

Another step taken by the government to end gas load shedding is halting the supply of gas to industries and closing down CNG stations during winter. This step ensures home owners are able to receive constant gas supply without experiencing load shedding. This is a temporary solution and does not solve the overall issue of gas shortage. Shutting down industries and CNG stations leave many people unemployed who end up protesting on the streets against the government.

As far as terrorism related gas shortage is concerned, this issue is beyond the control of government. The terrorists are either foreign nationals determined to destabilize Pakistan or are members of the Baloch Nationalist Movement who want Baluchistan to secede from Pakistan. The present and past governments have been unwilling to address this issue because of its dire consequence. Limited action was taken by the army to overcome this threat, but hasn’t yet been successful in solving this issue. Since the demand for gas resource is really high in Pakistan and with no concrete solution in place, gas load shedding will not end anytime soon. People have realized this, and have started to look for alternative solutions. Some People have installed solar water geazers in their homes to ensure warm water supply, while many are using electric heaters to keep the rooms warm. Since these heaters don’t require gas, they are the perfect individual solution for gas load shedding.

Reason Behind Gas Loadshedding

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