In what may give a fillip to the use of piped natural gas (PNG) by households, the ministry of urban development may include gas pipeline infrastructure in builders’ construction plans, much the same way as electricity and water supply facilities are part of such plans. This comes close to city gas distribution (CGD) being accorded the status of a public utility. “It is the logical next step. Our aim is to get building plans have provisions for gas lines at the design stage,” said ES Ranganathan, managing director, Indraprastha Gas (IGL), which operates mostly around the National Capital Region. A public utility status for CGD means workers cannot go on strike as per labour laws and comes under the Essential Services Maintenance Act. Disruption of such services is deemed to be affecting the normal life of citizens.
A demand to provide CGD projects public utility status was made by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in May and was subsequently granted. At present, buildings or houses do not the provision for gas pipelines and laying them often gets complicated due to various factors. “We face some private disputes wherein people object in letting pass a pipeline from one’s property to serve the others. We generally need agreement to do so. Now with the utility status, that problem is sorted,” said Ranganathan. However, CGD operators still need to take permission from the local authorities for laying pipelines. In this regard too, the PMO in May had also directed the ministries of urban development and petroleum apart from the Cabinet secretariat to “expedite outstanding issues relating to expansion of PNG connections in CGD project cities by resolving issues with local bodies”.
The thought to include gas pipelines in building plans comes at an opportune time as the country is set to witness a manifold increase in usage of PNG by households. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Urja Ganga gas pipeline project — which aims to meet the energy requirements of 40 districts and 2,600 villages across five eastern states by December 2020 — seven eastern cities, namely, Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Kolkata, Patna, Ranchi and Jamshedpur, will be getting PNG and compressed natural gas stations. In addition, think tank NITI Aayog in its three-year action agenda released recently said the CGD network should be extended to 326 cities by 2022 through suitable changes in bidding or regulatory practices of the regulator Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board.
“The work should also be resumed in about 10,258 km gas pipelines bid out by PNGRB, by suitably incentivising pipeline companies with better tariff mechanism, assured throughput and viability gap funding support, as per the specific situation,” it added. GAIL (India), which will undertake the CGD network project in the seven eastern states mentioned earlier, has already identified 60 cities wherein gas pipelines are already available and implementation of CGD projects can be undertaken swiftly.
IGL currently operates in Delhi and Noida, and has recently got permission to start operations in Rewari and a part of Gurugram. It has also bid for Karnal and Kurukshetra-Ambala, the results of which are expected on Friday. To further stimulate the penetration of PNG, a pilot in Mumbai and Delhi is soon expected to start wherein an area will be made “LPG-free” and all households will have to subscribe to PNG. “Say, in an apartment 70% of the households have PNG, the LPG dealer will not serve there and rest of the households will have to go for piped gas. It will be first tested as a pilot in one area in Delhi and one area in Mumbai,” said Ranganathan. The idea of LPG-free zones was