Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has announced that the LNG (liquefied natural gas) import terminal project in Ennore near Chennai in Tamil Nadu with the investment of over Rs.6000 crore would be commissioned by end 2018. This project has already been much delayed and as per original schedule, it should have been ready atleast 3 years earlier.
This LNG terminal of capacity 5 million tonne per annum can be fully utilized, only if the pipeline would be laid for evacuation of regasified natural gas, which should be ready by the end of 2018.
This is unlikely to happen.
At present, Indian Oil Corporation is laying pipeline from Ennore terminal to Manali Industrial belt for the distance of around 23 kilometer, as the first phase of the natural gas pipeline project,, where the companies like Madras Fertilisers Limited, Chennai Petroleum Corporation, Tamil Nadu Petro products and others would be utilizing the natural gas as feedstock and fuel to the extent of around 1.5 million tonne per annum, against the Ennore LNG terminal’s installed capacity of 5 million tonne per annum . The requirement of natural gas of Manali industrial belt would not be adequate to utilize the entire capacity of the Ennore LNG terminal.
In all, Indian Oil Corporation has to lay 1,385 Kilometer natural gas pipeline, originating from the Ennore terminal to Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu via Puducherry with branch pipelines to Madurai, Tuticorin, Trichy and Bengaluru. For laying these pipeline across Tamil Nadu , geographical locations in districts in Tamil Nadu including Salem, Kanchipuram, Tiruvallur, Cuddalore and Nagapattinam have been identified by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board. These pipelines have to be divided into primary, secondary and tertiary network and the pipeline have to necessarily pass along roads including village road and state highway across Tamil Nadu. However, necessary infrastructure facilities are not there at present.
While IOC says that it would lay pipeline of around 1385 kilometer length in phases , full capacity utilization of Ennore LNG terminal can not be achieved , until the entire 1385 kilometre length of pipeline would be laid for full evacuation of the imported natural gas.
Protest even against first phase pipeline project
While it would be so, it is causing concern that even the first phase of pipeline laying project from Ennore terminal to Manali industrial belt of distance 23 kilometre is now facing opposition from the local people and the activists.
The pipeline between Ennore terminal and Manali industrial belt runs on a large stretch of Ennore creek wetland. The local fishermen are protesting against laying of the pipeline across the wetland of Ennore creek, that is said to have been ordered by National Green Tribunal to be cleared of fly ash and intermediates. Activists say that there is no permission to lay pipeline in this environmentally sensitive zone.
However, IOC says that it is not carrying out any work in the 600 metre stretch in the Kosathaliyar river, where the CRZ clearance is yet to be obtained. IOC further says that it is using the sophisticated tranchline technology under the river to lay the pipeline. It further says that utmost safety precautions have been taken and pipelines are designed as per stringent norms. Thickness of the pipeline would be increased depending upon the density of population in the area.
While IOC is providing the necessary clarifications and explanations, it is doubtful whether the protestors and activists would relent and they may continue the protest to prevent laying of the pipeline.
What fate awaits further pipeline project?
When IOC is facing so much problem in laying pipeline of even 23 kilometre length due to the protest by the activists, one wonder whether IOC would be able to lay down the pipeline to the length of around 1385 kilometres across Tamil Nadu that has to pass through village roads and highways.
In the recent past, the proposed natural gas pipeline from Kochi LNG terminal to Tamil Nadu to a length of around 300 kilometre have been suspended due to protest from agriculturists and activists in Tamil Nadu. They have refused to listen to the explanation given by GAIL authorities who are the pipeline contractors and it appears that this natural gas pipeline project in Tamil Nadu has virtually been given up. In the process, Tamil Nadu has lost investment opportunity of around Rs. 15,000 crore that would have been possible by utilizing the natural gas from Kochi terminal as feedstock for setting up several petrochemical projects and ancillary industries in Tamil Nadu.
Because of this protest in Tamil Nadu, Kochi LNG terminal with an investment of around Rs. 4000 crores is unable to evacuate the imported natural gas and has been operating at around 5% of capacity and is incurring huge losses.
Pipeline project from Kochi terminal to Karnataka forging ahead
While the gas pipeline from Kochi LNG terminal through Tamil Nadu have been stranded, the pipeline is now being laid from Kochi LNG terminal to Karnataka state and is now fast nearing completion. Due to availability of gas from Kochi LNG terminal, several thousand crore rupees of investment based on natural gas would happen in Karnataka in the near future.
In the circumstances, one cannot but be concerned that Ennore LNG terminal project should not meet the same fate as that of Kochi LNG terminal , which happened due to the protest from the activists against laying gas pipeline in Tamil Nadu.
In all probability, the politicians and media in Tamil Nadu will jump into the fray and the protestors and activists would intensify the protests against laying gas pipeline from Ennore LNG terminal, that may threaten the future of this Rs. 6000 crore invested vital project.