GoM decision on natural gas price hike deferred

New Delhi, Jan 25 | Updated: Jan 26 2005, 05:30am hrs
The group of ministers (GoM) meeting on Tuesday to finalise the proposed gas price hike for fertiliser and power units and setting up of a regulator for the oil and natural gas sector remained inconclusive.

The meeting was inconclusive. Time did not permit us to make the two presentations we had prepared on the issues. The discussions will continue, minister for petroleum and natural gas Mani Shankar Aiyar told reporters after the meeting. However, a senior official in the ministry said the process will be completed before the Budget. Petroleum ministry had proposed raising the price of natural gas from Rs 2,850 per thousand cubic meters to Rs 3,200 per thousand cubic meters for fertiliser units and Rs 3,600 per thousand cubic meters for power sector on a provisional basis.

All the gas produced by private firms was to be sold at market determined price, which is almost double of the current price and up to Rs 8,140 per thousand cubic meters for industries such as chemicals and petrochemicals. The GoM was also to consider setting up of the petroleum and natural gas regulatory board to oversee downstream oil refining and marketing of petroleum products, natural gas sale, transportation and product and gas pipeline. Before the next meeting of the GoM, secretaries of the departments concerned will meet to sort any issues, he said.

The idea is not to try and delay things but to fix them before the Budget session of Parliament which begins in last week of February, he said.

The official said the oil ministry had turned down suggestions from the Planning Commission for setting up a single regulator for the entire energy sector saying two crucial sectors of coal and power were on the concurrent list with both Central and state governments having say over the policy matters.

Besides, the Supreme Court has ruled that natural gas will remain under exclusive jurisdiction of the Centre.

The ministry said given such a structure, it was not practical to have a single regulator.