Will Chennai’s wait for cheaper piped natural gas end?

It has been almost a year since a road show for piped natural gas (PNG) distribution network for Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram districts was organised. However, the project is yet to take off in these geographical areas (GAs) as a case has been filed against successful bidders in these areas.

  • A total of 11 geographical areas in Tamil Nadu and in Puducherry are to get City Gas Distribution Networks for supply of natural gas to consumers.
  • Other cities including Delhi and Mumbai already have such networks covering portions of the urban areas.
  • These are: Chennai, Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Salem, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur, Ramanathapuram and Karaikal in Puducherry.
  • Networks in Tamil Nadu will get natural gas from IOCL’s Ennore import and storage terminal
  • Advantages of CGD Network:
  • Consumers will not have to wait for gas cylinder deliveries or bother with delivery boys
  • Natural gas is not inflammable since a major component is methane and is safer than LPG
  • It costs lesser than LPG making gas bills smaller
  • Disadvantages of CGDN:
  • These lines would have to fight for space underground amongst water and sewer lines, stormwater drains, OFC cables and power lines
  • In cities, which are prone to road cuts, lines running underground might get cut if other civic agencies are not aware of the existence of the line
  • If lines are punctured, supply would be affected and consumers would be left without gas

According to data provided by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) that auctions the GAs, Chennai and Tiruvallur were to get some 33 lakh connections and Kancheepuram 11.51 lakh connections. These cities will also get compressed natural gas stations on the lines of Delhi and other cities for use by automobiles. Chennai and Tiruvallur will get 222 CNG stations and Kancheepuram 111 CNG stations in phases.

“The advantage with natural gas is that it is available in plenty; it is not a fossil fuel, hence more environment-friendly; lighter than liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and therefore rises into the air and disperses quickly, thus there is a lesser chance of fire; and it is cheaper than LPG. There is a price difference of more than ₹10 per kilo between these two gases,” explained a former official of the IOCL.

Once the case is settled, these districts will see some action with road cuts happening to lay underground pipelines at one metre depth, construct compressed natural gas stations from where PNG connections would be provided to domestic and commercial users. The gas will be imported and stored in a liquid state at a temperature of minus 162 degrees Centigrade in the terminal. It will be re-gassified and then supplied to end use consumers.

Of the 11 areas, including one in Puducherry that were chosen for implementing this scheme, initial spade work has been started by the respective companies in Coimbatore, Salem, Tirupur, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and Karaikal areas, explained an official of PNGRB.

The State will get its supply of natural gas from IOCL’s Ennore LNG import and storage terminal that has a capacity of five million tonnes. Work on the Madurai-Thoothukudi and Ramanathapuram pipeline, which has a branch planned to Bengaluru, is progressing well and is expected to be completed by the year-end, explained a senior company official.

Sources in Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, which has bagged the contract for Salem and Coimbatore district, said the dream of piped gas supply is not really a distant one in these locations. “Over a period of eight years, we will be spending ₹1,300 crore in Salem and around ₹3,000 crore in Coimbatore. The plan is to cover 9.5 lakh houses in Salem and 9.12 lakh NG connections in Coimbatore,” explained an official of IOCL.

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