Kochi will reach another milestone in its progress with the LNG terminal, one of the dream projects of Kerala, set to go on stream next week.

The liquefied natural gas terminal set up by Petronet LNG Limited, at an investment of Rs.3,750 crore, will become functional on August 10, with the offloading of natural gas being brought from Qatar.

The consignment of natural gas is being transported to Kochi as per an agreement entered into by Petronet LNG with RasGas, an international natural gas company based in Qatar, marking a new beginning in the energy scenario in Kerala and neighbouring States. There will be no special ceremony to mark the offloading of gas at the terminal at Puthuvype.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to launch the project officially at a later date.

Though the entire quantity of gas, being brought by the ship with a capacity of 120,000 cubic metre, could be offloaded within 24 hours in the normal course, it will be a slow process initially as several examinations are required to be conducted at the beginning stage of operations. The liquefied gas, kept at minus 160 degree Celsius, is regasified and made available to customers.

It will take about a week to get the gas offloaded completely at the terminal in the initial stage, according to officials. The gas is to be distributed to FACT and BPCL Kochi Refinery, which are confirmed consumers of LNG, as per agreements signed with Petronet LNG. The gas being brought by the vessel this time will be sufficient for the two units for about two months. The next consignment will arrive as per requirement, officials said.

The consuming units need to gear up for receiving the gas and certain mechanical provisions will be required to ensure compatibility.

The cost factor is another issue about which decision-makers are concerned. Though switching over to natural gas is advantageous on the environmental front, most companies are looking at the price advantage.

There is no last word on the prices of natural gas. The long-term contracts for gas purchase could vary depending on the country of origin.

While GAIL India has been engaged in laying pipelines to carry gas to different locations within the State and neighbouring States, the progress has been tardy.

Though the pipelines have been laid to the consuming units in Kochi, the work on extension of gas pipelines to connect Bangalore and Mangalore has hit a roadblock with farmers in Tamil Nadu raising objections.

GAIL has hinted at looking at alternatives in case the problem in Tamil Nadu is not sorted out.

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