Kochi: The much-awaited first shipment of over 1 lakh cubic metres of Liquefied Natural Gas for the Petronet LNG terminal at nearby Puthuvype arrived Tuesday and the commercial supplies are expected in the next few days with the offloading operations commencing immediately.
The cargo vessel carrying about 1, 23, 000 cubic metre of LNG from RasGas berthed here this morning following which the offloading operations began.
Commercial supplies from the Rs 4,200 crore terminal may start in a week's time with Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore (FACT) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) refineries being among the first consumers, Petronet LNG CEO and Managing Director A K Balyan told reporters here.
The two companies are in the process of converting their facilities to run on natural gas. Two other customers identified are Hindustan Latex Ltd (HLL) and Nitta Gelatin.
"We are also looking at commissioning and early supply of gas. We will not like to lose time. We hope that within a couple of days we will start commercial supply," he said.
Expressing concern that only Phase 1 of GAIL's pipeline network covering about 44 km had been completed, he said this was worrisome as this caters to the limited industrial areas of Kochi city.
Little progress had been made for the major part of the pipeline network of more than 900 km that would transport LNG to the northern districts of Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
On Tamil Nadu government's objections to the laying of pipelines through farm lands, he said the matter had gone to court. "We are hopeful it would be resolved soon. GAIL has discussed it with the state government. We hope once the matter is settled, construction of pipelines will take only a few months."
The terminal would therefore start operations utilising less than 10 per cent of its installed capacity, he said, adding that to operate at this capacity, PLL had to set up equipment, some of them imported from US, to ensure that there were no gas leaks.
In Gujarat, where the PLL's Dahej plant is located, 40 per cent of gas gets consumed in the state. 'We would like to see a similar situation in Kerala also. Not only industry, households, power companies, we can supply by road also', he said.
PLL had signed a contract with HLL where gas will be supplied by trucks. This opportunity needs to be tapped to ensure the state's progress, he said.
Being a commissioning cargo, the vessel would be berthed at PLL's jetty till the whole terminal, including storage tanks are cooled down to cryogenic temperatures.
This one time operations are a slow and meticulous process and would take 6-7 days to complete.
The process may also involve flaring of some gas till the systems are stabilised. This would be carried out in a controlled manner as per approved standard operating procedures, Balyan said.
The availability of LNG is expected to pave the way for distribution of piped gas in Kochi and the transportation sector will be benefited by switching over to the clean energy, he said.
It will open up opportunities in the power sector, leading to gas-based projects coming up in the state. LNG will draw greater investor interests in Kerala and neighbouring states.
Earlier, the LNG carrier, 'Wilenergy' laden with the commissioning cargo, berthed in PLL's jetty at Puthuvypin this morning after it anchored at the outer channel eight days ago.
There was an unforseen delay in bringing the vessel to the PLL jetty as dredging activity was going on in the area. Due to the heavy rains during last week of july and August first week resulted in clogging of immediate vicinity of the LNG basin.
With the shipment, the Petronet LNG terminal, with an annual capacity of five million tonnes, is all set to commence operations soon.
The company plans to import 4-5 shiploads of LNG at the terminal in 2013-14.
In year-2, the terminal is expected to operate at 75 per cent capacity when pipeline connecting Kochi to Mangalore and Bangalore are built. GAIL is planning to connect this pipeline to Chennai.
Besides the Kochi plant, Petronet operates a 10 million tonnes per annum terminal at Dahej in Gujarat, which it plans to expand to 15 million by 2016. It is also constructing a facility in Andhra Pradesh.