With electricity shortfall nearing 50 per cent of demand, the government managed to persuade the Attock Refinery Limited on Monday to lift maximum quantity of crude from fields and utilise its full refining capacity to prevent power crisis from deteriorating further. Sources told Dawn that Water and Power Minister Syed Naveed Qamar and Petroleum Secretary Imtiaz Kazi held separate meetings with power companies and oil industry and kept updating the presidency and the finance ministry about the deliberations. An official said President Asif Ali Zardari had taken notice of the energy crisis, particularly the stopping of oil supplies by the refining industry to Pakistan State Oil and reduction in their throughput from oil and gas fields, and directed the authorities concerned to take all possible steps to resolve it. �The problem is mainly because of financial crunch and the situation could not be controlled without immediate liquidity injection,� said an official. He said that Prime Minister�s Adviser on Petroleum Dr Asim Hussain, Mr Qamar and Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh kept waiting for a meeting with the president but it did not take place. Dr Hussain, however, met Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in the evening and sought his intervention for resolving the circular debt issue. �We are expecting release of funds to ease furnace oil and diesel supply constraints,� a senior official said. He said the ARL management had agreed to resume supplying refined petroleum products to PSO but it will take some time to restore furnace oil and diesel supplies. The sources said the ARL management had been asked to resume furnace oil and diesel supplies. The company was told that its receivables from the PSO stood at Rs37 billion but it was holding back payment of Rs44 billion to the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited and government taxes and hence it had no justification to stop uplifting crude and hinder product supplies. The ARL management is reported to have told the officials that it did not face cash constraints but the huge amount of receivables on its balance sheet was attracting criticism from auditors and shareholders that could create legal issues. An official said the meeting presided over by Mr Kazi also considered a summary forwarded by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority seeking an increase of Rs5-6 per litre in the prices of petroleum and forwarded it to the prime minister and the finance ministry. The representatives of the Pakistan Electric Power Company and power distribution companies told the minister for water and power that the current power shortfall was about 7,000MW against an aggregate demand of more than 14,000MW, forcing the highest-ever loadshedding in the country. The minister was informed that the demand was estimated to exceed 18,000MW over the next few days with the use of airconditioners and fans.
By: Dawn News