IE has been pointing to Tamil Nadu’s total unconcern over utilising the enormous potential of natural gas. For close to 30 years, IE has been pointing to the prosperity, especially of Gujarat and Maharashtra, built on the effective utilisation of natural gas/LPG. Apart from utilising a large portion of natural gas produced both on land and offshore at the Bombay High, these states have also created the infrastructure for importing large quantities of LNG. Look at the LNG terminals existing as on 31 March 2016:
• At Dahej in Gujarat the terminal has capacity for 10 mmtpa being increased to 15 mmtpa during the current year.
• At Hazira again in Gujarat, for 5 mmtpa.
• At Dabhol in Maharashtra, for 1.692 mmtpa in phase 1 to be increased to 5 mmtpa.
• Kochi built for a capacity of 5 mmtpa, but utilises a small fraction.
• In Gujarat large capacity fertiliser and power plants use gas as a feedstock effectively; a vast range of industries including steel, petrochemicals and chemicals widely use gas as also for transportation and as domestic fuel. Over a hundred units concentrated in and around Rajkot that produce ceramic tiles and large capacity glass units are based on gas.
Look at the concentration of use by the three prosperous states:
1) As on 1 April 2016, of the total number of 1081 compressed natural gas stations (CNG), Gujarat accounted for 377, New Delhi for 340 and Maharashtra for 225 - close to 87 per cent by these three states.
2) Of the total PNG connections of 3,287,875, Gujarat accounted for 1,554,525, Maharashtra for 924,042 and Delhi 669,265 - close to 98 per cent.
3) Of the CNG vehicles that totalled 2,557,895, Gujarat had 864,735, New Delhi 823,298 and Maharashtra 567,785- close to 88 per cent.
While Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tripura, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh find a place in the use of natural gas, Tamil Nadu is nowhere in this. During April-September of 2016, total consumption was provisionally estimated at 27.91 bn. cubic metres with roughly 46 per cent met by imports; this has registered an increase with liberal imports. Of this the share of Tamil Nadu is limited to a small quantum of LPG used as a domestic fuel.
The saddest part of it relates to the state leadership blocking the construction of the gas pipeline that would facilitate use of gas imported at the Kochi terminal. The AIADMK government blocked the plan of GAIL on opposition from an estimated 5500 farmers for laying the pipeline through their fields; contrast this with the benefit to the 170 lakh population of the seven districts! Long litigation through the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court, the state blocked construction of the pipeline; the Courts ultimately rejected the appeals of the state government. Sadly, neither the industry nor the larger sections of public who would benefit immensely by the availability of this elegant raw material, have been concerned with this. For nearly a year, the state keeps to its rigid stance of its right - to shoot itself on its foot!
Look at the massive plans of the Union government to complete the national gas grid which received a set back by the Reliance Industries resiling on its original promise to construct pipelines from AP to Tamil Nadu and West Bengal and thence to UP. Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, outlined at the Economic Editors’ Conference the Urja Ganga Project designed to take gas to West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and UP. It will feed the two fertilizer plants at Barauni and Sindri which are sick. A 1000 km Dhamra-Bokaro pipeline is to be constructed at a cost of Rs 6000 crore. IOC and GAIL will jointly set up an LNG terminal at Dhamra. A massive fertilizer plant at Thalcher in Odisha to be jointly set up by a number of PSUs will also be fed by this pipeline.
And Tamil Nadu does not seem to have any qualm about keeping the once prosperous fertilizer plants of Madras Fertilizers and SPIC sick for want of gas as a feedstock!