| Loose grip
New Delhi, May 4: The national oil companies have completed the Rs 660-crore state-of-the-art Mangalore-Bangalore pipeline project. However, the Karnataka Power Corporation has not been able to get its act together and provide electricity to run the system.
The Rs 30-crore project to put up high-tension cables and transformers for the supply of power to the pipeline system has been bogged down in red-tape.
The delay has started adversely impacting the economics of the project. The oil companies are also losing money as they have to pay higher transport costs with 600 trucks winding their way through the western ghats everyday carrying the petroleum products from the Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) to Bangalore.
The 364-km pipeline has been laid to carry petrol, diesel, kerosene, aviation turbine fuel and naphtha.
These liquid fuels have to be sent in batches through the pipeline and the system requires an assured power supply to maintain a constant pumping pressure along the entire 365-km pipeline from Mangalore to Bangalore. Any fall in pressure at any point results in the fuels getting mixed up and rendered unfit for use.
Pipelines are the most economical and environment-friendly mode of transporting petroleum products and are preferred to road or rail in most advanced countries. In the US, for instance, 58 per cent of products are moved by pipeline. In India, this proportion is less than 30 per cent.
However, with more pipelines under construction, this percentage is expected to go up. Trucks are expected to provide only the last mile linkage in any advanced system of marketing petroleum products.
Pipelines are also considered the safest mode of transporting goods and reduce incidents of pilferage. Besides, the heavy tanker movement on the busy Mangalore-Bangalore highway poses a traffic hazard. So the earlier the pipeline gets its power supply the better it would be for everyone.
The Mangalore-Bangalore pipeline system has been put in place essentially by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) for Petronet, a consortium of all the downstream national oil companies. It is based on the common carrier principle and was scheduled to be completed in March 2002. Since Petronet is in the process of being wound up, the pipeline will be run by IOC for the first year or two and then handed over to ONGC as the company has taken over MRPL.