India offers export of gas to Pakistan

New Delhi: After fuel, India is offering to export natural gas to Pakistan to help the neighbouring country tide over its gas crisis. State-owned GAIL`s just commissioned natural gas pipeline from west coast to Bhatinda in the north Indian state of Punjab is barely 25-km away from Pakistan border and the gas utility is proposing that the line can be extended to Lahore in no time, sources privy to the development said.

GAIL plans to import liquefied natural gas or LNG (natural gas that has been liquefied at sub-zero temperature and shipped in cryogenic vessels) at Dahej or Hazira import terminals in the west Indian state of Gujarat. It plans to move this gas through the Dahej-Vijaipur-Dadri-Bawana-Nangal-Bhatinda pipeline to Punjab and then into Pakistan.

But before a formal proposal is made to the Pakistani side, it needs the approval of the Ministry of External Affairs, sources said. Pakistan may experience its worst gas crisis in 2016 when shortfall is expected to hit 3.021 billion cubic feet per day as supply-demand position deteriorates, the State Bank of Pakistan had said in December last year.

Unlike India, Pakistan has till now not built an LNG import terminal and so buying gas from GAIL pipeline may make economic sense for the Islamic nation. Gas supply in Pakistan at around 5.497 bcfd in the year to June 30, 2012 is short of demand by 2.458 bcfd. Supplies, according to the State Bank of Pakistan, are likely to increase to 6.354 bcfd in 2015-16 but the deficit will expand further to 3.021 bcfd. Sources said an LNG terminal will take a minimum of four years to build while the GAIL pipeline can be expanded into Lahore within months.