| In a crunch
Calcutta, Oct. 4: Brace for a month-long wait for cooking gas at home.
The shutdown of the Reliance refinery at Jamnagar in Gujarat ' the largest in the country ' for maintenance and the shortage of LPG in the international market have stretched the queues.
“After the delivery of a cylinder, we are taking bookings only after three weeks. Once the booking is placed, it will take 4-7 days for the next delivery,” an Indian Oil Corporation executive said.
In the rural areas, the situation could be worse.
The crisis could last till November. Between October and November, when demand peaks in the festival season, a countrywide shortfall of 3.6 per cent is expected.
Greater Calcutta needs 10,000 tonnes and Bengal 40,000 tonnes in October. In September, the supply went down by 20 per cent, triggering a flurry of steps to close the gap.
IOC and its subsidiary IBP serve 70 per cent of the Bengal market.
“We are making an appeal to all our customers not to make panic bookings as this might create an artificial shortage,” an oil industry executive said.
The oil ministry has also asked states to crack down on unauthorised use.
By not accepting orders for three weeks after delivery, the oil companies are discouraging idle inventory by way of a second cylinder.
IOC has deferred its planned maintenance shutdown its Barauni refinery and requested upstream companies like ONGC and GAIL to step up production. This could make up for 32,000 tonnes.
An additional 322,000 tonnes are being imported, above the regular imports.
As a special measure, the oil ministry has requested the shipping ministry to provide for additional LPG import through Kandla port.
“We are unable to import more as LPG is generally not sold on spot basis in the international market. Moreover, specialised ships are required to bring it. They are not readily available,” officials said.
“Due to the hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the US, the bulk of the LPG from the Gulf is heading there. So there is a shortage in the international market,” a source said.
National oil companies said the “unplanned” shutdown of the Reliance refinery has sparked the crisis.
However, Reliance had communicated its decision for a maintenance shutdown to the stock exchanges on September 20.
The notice had said it would take about eight weeks for the job.