Centre and GAIL, the nodal agency, have been given one more chance to supply natural gas to Gujarat at the price it is supplied to Delhi and Mumbai.
Hearing a contempt petition on Tuesday, Gujarat high court came down heavily on both for not supplying gas to the state. It also ordered the ministry of petroleum and natural gas (MoPNG) secretary to appear in court on December 10.
Owing to the technical issue of delivery point and low pressure gas, Gujarat State Petronet Limited (GSPL), the company which runs pipeline network in the state, is not in a position to flow the gas to the state.
“GAIL has offered the gas at Suvali in Hazira. GAIL’s pipeline network has a delivery pressure of 35-45 bar while GSPL has a high-pressure pipeline network of 80-90 bar. Technically, it is not possible to flow low pressure gas into a high pressure gas pipeline,” said GSPC counsel Aspi Kapadia, adding that GSPC has written a letter to GAIL asking it to swap the gas according to MoPNG guidelines and start supply from Hazira.
GAIL counsel Uday Joshi demanded one week’s time to sort out the technical issues. However, Amit Panchal, counsel for petitioner Dhangadhra Prakriti Mandal, argued that swapping is mentioned even in MoPNG guidelines and the ministry had authorised GAIL to enter into such an agreement wherever required.
The court was not satisfied though. “It appears that the procedure adopted is aimed at frustrating the court order. We had questioned the Centre’s bona fide intention over the supply of gas. If guidelines were issued on November 14 and everyone knows the physical and technical challenges, what is taking so much time to sort out the issues,” wondered Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya. “If there is a meeting, differences can be sorted out in half an hour,” he added.
“If the ministry has given an undertaking, we do not find any reason for GAIL to deviate from it knowing full well that physically it is not possible to supply administered price mechanism (APM) gas from the delivery pressure of 34-45 bar to a GSPL-maintained high pressure gas grid. Still, if it decides to connect and flow the gas through the delivery pressure of 35-45 bar, it amounts to a violation of our order. So, as requested by GAIL, we have fixed the matter for hearing on Tuesday so that it can be sorted out in the meantime, pursuant to the affidavit filed by the ministry,” said the court order.
A quick recap
In July 2012, the HC had directed the Centre to supply natural gas to Ahmedabad at the price it is supplied to Delhi and Mumbai. The latter had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, which upheld the court decision and dismissed its appeal to review the order. MoPNG had filed an affidavit and undertaking to begin supply to Gujarat by not later than November 30.