Interview with B.C. Tripathi

“GAIL is working concurrently on multiple gas pipeline projects, aggregating over 5,400 km”

GAIL (India) Limited is a diversified natural gas company that operates in the upstream, midstream and downstream segments directly or through its subsidiaries. Its operations are spread across the natural gas value chain, encompassing exploration and production (E&P), petrochemicals, liquid hydrocarbons, power and renewables, and natural gas transmission and distribution through various partnerships and joint ventures (JVs). The company owns and operates the largest gas transmission network and is one of the largest city gas distribution (CGD) entities in the country. In an interview with Indian Infrastructure, B.C. Tripathi, Chairman and Managing Director, GAIL (India) Limited, talks about GAIL’s natural gas transmission infrastructure, ongoing pipeline projects, its CGD network and initiatives in the renewable segment…

What have been GAIL’s efforts in building natural gas pipeline infrastructure in the country?

Since its inception in 1984, GAIL (India) Limited has been at the forefront of building the country’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure. It owns and operates a network of around 11,400 km of high pressure trunk pipelines with a pan-Indian capacity to handle volumes of around 206 million metric standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd).

Since 2008, GAIL has added over 5,000 km of natural gas pipelines. However, the scale of pipeline laying operations that GAIL is presently undertaking far surpasses that of any of the other transmission projects in its history. We are working concurrently on multiple pipeline projects, aggregating over 5,400 km, including the Jagdishpur-Haldia and Bokaro-Dhamra pipeline (JHBDPL), popularly known as the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project. The total capex to be incurred on these projects will be Rs 239.03 billion. Today, GAIL has the reputation of being the country’s leading company working on gas infrastructure projects steadfastly and consistently.

Can you tell us more about the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project?

The prestigious JHBDPL project will connect eastern and north-eastern India to the existing natural gas grid for the first time and will pass through eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Assam. The total length of the pipeline will be 3,383 km, including the 727 km Barauni-Guwahati pipeline section, which is being developed as an integrated part of the Urja Ganga project. Of this, a 110 km section from Phulpur to Varanasi has been successfully completed and commissioned.

The pipeline shall have two gas sources, one at Phulpur (Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh) and the other at the Dhamra regasified liquefied natural gas terminal (Odisha). The capacity of the pipeline network is 16 mmscmd. The project is progressing in full swing and the full first phase is scheduled for completion by December 2018.

This pipeline will supply gas to fertiliser plants at Gorakhpur, Barauni and Sindri. These plants that have been long closed are being revived by the government to reduce the country’s dependence on fertiliser imports and will use environment-friendly natural gas as feedstock. Urja Ganga will also supply gas to CGD networks in cities along the route. This trunk pipeline investment is likely to trigger cascading investments through infrastructure creation in CGD and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, fertiliser plant revival, etc. amounting to over Rs 500 billion by various investors in the near future.

What are the other pipeline projects that GAIL is presently engaged in?

The two other major pipeline projects under implementation by GAIL are:

  • Kochi-Kootanad-Bengaluru/Mangalore pipeline: Construction work of the pipeline (434 km section) is in full swing and is expected to be completed by February 2019.
  • Vijaipur-Auraiya-Phulpur pipeline: In order to debottleneck the upstream network of the JHBDPL project, a parallel pipeline from Vijaipur to Auraiya and up to Phulpur (672 km) is under execution in phases. Phase 1 from Auraiya to Phulpur is expected to be completed by December 2018. GAIL has also awarded orders to execute Phase 2 of the pipeline, from Vijaipur to Auraiya.

GAIL is also a major player in the CGD business. Can you give us an idea of the company’s presence in this field?

GAIL is a pioneer in CGD in the country and has significant experience of over two decades and a formidable market share in the segment on its own as well as through its subsidiary GAIL Gas and other JVs. GAIL is currently operating in 38 cities/geographical areas (GAs) throughout India directly and through its eight JVs/subsidiaries in the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Patna, etc. These CGD GAs together cater to 2.4 million households out of the total 4.3 million piped natural gas (PNG) household connections in the country. Of the total 1,424 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations in the country, the GAIL group operates 915 stations. The previous year registered record additions of 500,000 households and 120 CNG stations.

The Bengaluru CGD project is making significant progress. Expenditure of around Rs 6 billion has been incurred towards laying a 2,684 inch-km pipeline network, providing connections to over 50,000 households, and the commissioning of five CNG stations. Around 5,000 households are already drawing PNG along with 70 industrial and commercial consumers. GAIL Gas has taken another pioneering step in Bengaluru by entering into a strategic partnership with ridesharing company Uber to switch over its cab fleet to CNG. This initiative may be expanded to other cities as well.

GAIL has been awarded six cities as part of the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project – Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Patna, Ranchi and Jamshedpur. In addition, GAIL will execute a CGD project in Kolkata through a JV between GAIL and a West Bengal government company. Gas supply through the pipeline and cascades has commenced in Varanasi, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack in the first quarter of financial year 2018-19. The prime minister dedicated the CGD project at Varanasi to the nation on July 16, 2018. Groundwork for laying the CGD network in Patna, Ranchi and Jamshedpur has also started. GAIL will also commission India’s first liquefied CNG station in Bhubaneswar soon, wherein natural gas will be transported in liquid form in cryogenic tankers from Dahej, Gujarat, to Bhubaneswar/Cuttack and can be directly used in vehicles.

Renewables are steadily gaining prominence in the energy mix. Is GAIL taking action to benefit from this development?

GAIL has taken many steps to reduce carbon emissions and implement renewable energy projects. Today, it has a total installed capacity of 128.71 MW of alternative energy, of which 117.95 MW is wind and 10.76 MWp is solar energy. The company has commissioned a 5.76 MWp captive grid-connected rooftop solar power plant at the Pata Petrochemical Complex, Uttar Pradesh, which is the country’s second largest industrial photovoltaic rooftop solar plant and also the first rooftop solar plant in the hydrocarbon industry in India. This plant will offset over 9,000 tonnes per annum of greenhouse gases and the power generated is being consumed within the petrochemical complex and the balance power is being drawn from the grid. Moreover, rooftop solar units are being installed at the company’s offices and work centres for captive use.

Apart from solar and wind energy, GAIL is exploring the possibility of setting up charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs). The government has announced plans to make a major shift to EVs by 2030 but the infrastructure has not been fully developed. GAIL has a pan-Indian presence through its natural gas network and has the capacity for setting up charging infrastructure at a faster pace. This will also enable GAIL to become future-ready in the emerging energy scenario.

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