Seeks answers from Petroleum Ministry on IPI, TAPI and India-Bangladesh-Myanmar gas pipeline

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has sought answers from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry over the inadequate progress made in execution of transnational pipeline projects, including the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, TAPI gas pipeline and the almost-defunct Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline.

The CAG has sought confirmation of the latest facts and figures on the issue and also asked the Petroleum Ministry to intimate the latest developments on these projects. The queries are part of the Performance Audit on “Supply and Pricing of Natural Gas” being carried out by the official government auditor.

In a September 5 letter to the Joint Secretary (IC), Ministry of Petroleum, the office of the Principal Director of Commercial Audit and Ex. Office Member Audit Board-II (Oil Wing), Deputy Director, A.K. Gupta has sought latest information on the progress of these important gas pipeline projects.

Unresolved issues

“The TAPI project has been in discussion for almost about 23 years posing a significant potential for the energy security of the country but still issues relating to price, security and gas certification remain unresolved,” the CAG communication states. There seems to be uncertainty in import of gas through pipelines due to geopolitical, technological and security reasons from the beginning, it said.

It said the 1,680-km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline will cost $7.6 billion and carry 38 million standard cubic meters per day of gas for India and Pakistan each from 2018.

Similarly, CAG said the IPI was conceptualised in early 1989 as Iran-Pakistan pipeline worth $2 billion. India joined the project in 2005 and two years later agreed to pay $4.93 per million British Thermal Unit (mbtu) for buying gas from Iran. The pipeline, which was expected to carry 8.7 billion cubic meters of gas, was slated for completion in 2013. India withdrew from the project in 2009 citing security concerns and price of gas. However, Iran and Pakistan have gone ahead with the project and construction of the Pakistan section was inaugurated in March this year and is expected to be completed in 22 months.

The Myanmar-Bangladesh-India pipeline was mooted in 1997. The 900-km line was to source gas from Mayanmar and Bangladesh for supply into India. New Delhi reached an agreement with Dhaka and Yangon in 2005. Bangladesh, however, withdrew from the project after India refused to accept its three additional conditions. The line from Myanmar was re-routed through Mizoram, Tripura and Assam into Kolkata. While there were security-related issue, Mayanmar in 2008 concluded a gas sale deal with China.

Complex ventures

“Transnational pipelines are difficult and complex ventures since they involve different countries with different economic and political interests. Besides, they pass through difficult terrain, as also politically- and environmentally-sensitive areas, and hence, require mobilisation of huge financial and technological resources,” the CAG observed.

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