Power plants trip on oil ministry’s math

Investments of Rs 100,000 crore made into 24,000 MW greenfield gas fired power generation capacity have been left stranded because the petroleum ministry consistently got its math wrong on the fuel’s availability from domestic fields but no one in the government noticed it till the plants tripped due to fuel shortage.

A scrutiny of the estimates of gas availability given by the ministry to the empowered group of ministers — a panel with the Cabinet’s powers — on gas shows a variation of up to 76% between figures given in 2009 and shown in the current year.

The investments in new gas-fired capacity were planned and made on the basis of these projections. Though the fluctuation in the petroleum ministry’s estimates was clear, the ministerial panel as well as the Planning Commission , the government’s policy think tank, missed the inconsistency .

It is only recently that the power ministry issued an advisory asking promoters not to plan any gas-fired power plants till 2015-16 . But in the meantime, some 15,000 MW out of the 16,000 MW gasfired capacity that has come up has been left stranded.

Documents accessed by TOI indicate that the oil ministry is going to tell the ministerial panel’s next meeting that the situation is unlikely to improve for these existing plants as well as another 8,000 MW that is nearing completion . Based on the oil ministry’s current projections, the panel is unlikely to be of any help till domestic production rises in 2016-17 as planned.

The panel under defence minister A K Antony is to meet shortly with the aim of squeezing some gas from the current year’s output of 105 mcmd (million cubic metres per day) for power.

The ministry’s projections essentially went awry because output from Reliance Industries’ KG-D 6 field fell to 14 mcmd from 80 mcmd it had estimated for this period in its development plan. Some 25 power plants had signed up for 30 mcmd gas. The output is projected to drop to 11 mcmd this fiscal before rising to 19 mcmd in the first quarter of 2015 and remains at that level till 2016-17 .

The oil ministry now reckons about 4-5 mcmd additional gas would be available from fields of ONGC and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation in 2013-14 . A similar additional volume may be available in the next fiscal and 2 mcmd more from GSPC in 2015-16 .



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