In a shocking revelation that has sent ripples through Pakistan’s telecommunications and energy sectors, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) recently uncovered a significant case of gas theft at a mobile phone tower site operated by Jazz, the country’s largest mobile phone operator. This discovery, occurring in Karak, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province, has become a focal point in the ongoing battle against gas theft, highlighting the complexities and consequences of this illicit activity.
SNGPL’s Aggressive Anti-Gas Theft Campaign:
SNGPL, in its relentless pursuit of gas theft culprits, launched an aggressive anti-gas theft campaign, targeting areas where illegal connections and unauthorized gas usage were rampant. The campaign has resulted in the disconnection of numerous illegal connections and the recovery of millions of rupees. However, the case involving Jazz marks a unique milestone as the first instance of a major mobile tower site being implicated in gas theft.
The Shocking Discovery:
According to SNGPL, their vigilant teams raided the mobile phone tower site in Karak and made a startling discovery. They found a generator operating on an illegal gas connection, with gas surreptitiously siphoned from an eight-inch main gas pipeline through a 200-foot-long pipeline. The regional team acted swiftly, disconnecting the illegal connection and taking custody of the generator and associated equipment. Notably, a First Information Report (FIR) has been lodged against Jazz at the local police station, further intensifying the gravity of the situation.
Jazz’s Firm Denial and Counteractions:
In response to these allegations, Jazz vehemently denied any involvement in gas theft. A spokesperson for the telecommunications giant asserted that the company fully complies with all applicable laws, using legitimate electricity or fuel arrangements for its network operations throughout Pakistan. Jazz clarified that it has established agreements with third-party vendors for generator fuelling at its sites as a backup power solution, categorically stating that natural gas is not utilized at any of its sites in Pakistan. To address the allegations comprehensively, Jazz has initiated an internal investigation aimed at uncovering more details about the specific site in question. The company has vowed to take appropriate action based on the investigation’s findings while cautioning against baseless allegations that could tarnish the reputation of a multinational corporation that has invested over $10.5 billion in Pakistan.
The Broader Issue of Gas Theft in Pakistan:
The discovery of gas theft at a mobile tower site brings into sharp focus the pervasive issue of gas theft in Pakistan, particularly in areas like K-P, where instances of gas and electricity theft pose not only financial challenges but also security concerns. The current crackdown, backed by top authorities, aims to unearth more such cases in the future.
SNGPL’s Managing Director, Amer Tufail, recently addressed the pressing issue of gas theft during a press conference, emphasizing the declining local share of gas in the total energy system, with imports now constituting 50% of the gas supply. Tufail underscored the urgency of transforming energy consumption habits.
A Vigorous Campaign Against Gas Theft:
Tufail reported that SNGPL has filed a staggering 803 FIRs against gas theft over the past three years, identifying 325,000 gas theft cases in the process. This crackdown has led to the recovery of Rs2.4 billion from individuals involved in these illicit activities. Furthermore, SNGPL has made substantial strides in reducing Unaccounted-for Gas (UFG) in the past four years.
Surpassing expectations, SNGPL achieved a UFG reduction of 23 billion cubic feet (BCF) against the federal government’s target of 18 BCF over three years. This reduction translates to savings of approximately Rs12.5 billion for the national exchequer.
Efforts to address law and order challenges in oil and gas-producing areas, particularly in Karak and adjacent regions in KPK, have resulted in a significant 66% reduction in gas loss. Technology, especially real-time monitoring through Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), has played a vital role in detecting theft and under-billing by industrial consumers. SNGPL has proactively addressed leakages across 87,000 kilometers of its network over the last three years.
As the investigation into the Jazz gas theft case continues, Pakistan’s energy sector grapples with the far-reaching implications of gas theft, highlighting the imperative of robust measures to combat this longstanding challenge. The outcome of this investigation and the subsequent actions taken will undoubtedly shape the future of gas security and accountability in the country.