The ongoing gas supply crisis is hitting hard on the public transport sector as the CNG remains unavailable for the 5th consecutive day in Sindh.
According to the coordinator Sindh, All Pakistan CNG Association, Samir Najmul Hassan, gas supply to CNG stations had remained shut for over 141 hours in the current week, thus hitting the daily sale and causing severe problems to the people. However even on the closure of CNG pumps, domestic consumers and industries were getting low gas pressure.
It has also been revealed that CNG stations were not getting required pressure as before. Usually 90% pumps would get 8psi and 10% pumps get 15psi but the pressure remained in the range of 2psi to 4psi at pumps which used to get 8psi. Due to low pressure, some 40% pumps could not open their gas stations, added Najmul Hassan. He added that over the past one and a half years, CNG price had risen to Rs 123 per kg from Rs 87 per kg, causing 30% decline in sales.
On the other hand Chairman of CNG Dealers Association Abdul Sami Khan has warned that they will protest if gas supply isn’t restored from next week according to the schedule.
“We will block the main roads in case gas supply to stations is closed for more than three days next week against the schedule of SSGCL. We have been encouraged by previous governments to invest in CNG sector for ensuring clean environment and curbing oil import bill, but the business environment is now turning hostile.”
The closure of CNG stations for a prolonged duration has proved to be a great burden on the pockets of consumers as public transport including buses, rickshaw and taxi drivers are demanding exorbitant fares while peak factor on ride-hailing services has remained a continual annoyance owing to the lack of public transport.
Is CNG still viable?
CNG was introduced in Pakistan in 1992, and within a decade we were already among the largest consumers of CNG in the world. During the previous decade the CNG sector was so profitable that those related to marriage hall business were converting their premises into CNG filling stations in large numbers. CNG licenses were frequently issued by the government in large numbers and even automakers were rolling out vehicles with factory fitted CNG kits. However during the last few years, the sector has been hit badly due to shortage of natural gas. Initially CNG would cost around Rs 20 per kg, however it now stands at Rs 125 per kg (Sindh).
The question is, if CNG is still viable at this high cost and why people prefer standing in queues to get their cars refilled instead of simply going for petrol. Well, as far as modern vehicles with sophisticated engine technologies are concerned, you don’t really need to convert your car to CNG. However the bulk of the passenger cars as well as commercial vehicles in our country are either quite old or were developed using decades-old technology and hence consume more fuel (petrol/ diesel) compared to the newer vehicles.
Owners of vehicles based on carburetor engines, and commercial vehicles including mini buses, taxi and rickshaw drivers find it more economical to run their vehicles on CNG compared to petrol due to increased mileage achieved in per kg of gas compared to per liter of petrol. For the sake of comparison an old 1300cc Suzuki Margalla delivers up to 120 km against a refill of Rs 700. The same amount will buy 6.19 liters of petrol which is good for 74 km only.
Ironically the government has literally done nothing to adapt modern fuel saving mechanisms, emission standards or to pull out obsolete vehicles off the road.
Pakistan has now formulated en electric vehicle policy and aims to shift towards electrification directly from Euro-II. But keeping in mind the recent price hikes and added taxes that have pushed the new vehicles out of the reach of the masses, it seems all but difficult to get rid of the older vehicles and make a complete shift towards newer technology.
Even when it has become more expensive than petrol, CNG still remains a prime choice for old vehicle owners and they prefer standing in queues to get their vehicles refilled because it simply returns them better mileage compared to that of petrol. However considering the ongoing crisis, the future of CNG in Pakistan as far as the mobility sector is concerned, looks dark.