Monday’s Madras High Court order pertaining to the GAIL pipeline project, besides coming as a lifeline for the facility in Tamil Nadu, is expected to spur public sector oil companies to carry their pipeline proposals forward. The court order, senior officials in the oil industry feel, will be able to impact and achieve what otherwise would be a challenging task for the government.
According to them, taking the pipeline along the national highways, instead of through farm lands, has its own disadvantages and risks too. Agreeing that any pipeline project could not succeed without the support of the respective State government, sources said two pipeline projects of Indian Oil Corporation were expected to gain momentum further to the court order. While the Ennore-Tiruchi-Madurai LPG pipeline is at a conceptual stage, work on a product pipeline to link the Nagapattinam refinery of Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd and the Chennai-Tiruchi-Madurai pipeline has slowed down due to protests.
“Both the projects have been held up,” a senior official of the company said, adding that the oil industry and its proposed pipelines much depended on the fate of the Kochi-Bangalore-Mangalore natural gas pipeline passing through seven districts of Tamil Nadu.
“The court order will be a shot in the arm for the industry,” the IOC official said. Sources in Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd said the risks involved in laying a pipeline near the national highways include the possibility of the facility getting damaged in accidents and the need to dig up the roads in the event of leaks.
Chemical Industries Association secretary N.S. Venkataraman said given the opposition of the farmers in the State to the GAIL project the court should have constituted a committee to go into all aspects of the project.
A report of an independent committee would have done a lot of good.
Highlighting the role of the State government in smooth implementation of such projects, he said Tamil Nadu, however, could not afford to lose the project as natural gas availability would promote industrialisation. It would also help establish power plants.
The association sometime ago had, in an appeal to the State government, said that setting up of natural gas-based projects would result in setting up of a chain of downstream and ancillary projects. They, in turn, would create huge employment opportunities and bring additional income for the State.
Sources in Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) said much of the protests by the locals against projects of the oil industry could be addressed with improved public relations.
What the villagers want in most cases are jobs for the locals and the companies’ adoption of their villages, he said.