Anarchy prevails…

The country’s largest oil refinery, PARCO (100,000 barrels per day), situated in Mehmood Kot, Muzaffargarh District, is surrounded by water and has been shutdown. Earlier efforts to divert floodwater from approaching it were hampered by surrounding landlord tribes of influential Khars and Khosas, who wanted to “protect” their farms.

Families have been evacuated and a select team of PARCO’s employees remain stranded there, surviving on scarce food reserves.

The refinery, which generates 65% of the national oil output, approximately 14,000 tonnes of fuel products daily, will remain shut until the waters recede. PARCO’s daily production consists of petrol (3 million litres), diesel (3,200 tonnes), LPG (450 tonnes), jet aviation fuel (1.75 million litres) and kerosene (12 million litres).

PARCO’s most important product is furnace oil (3,500 tonnes daily), which is used by all thermal power plants to generate 400mw of electricity daily. None of the other oil refineries (Attock and Karachi) with their limited production capabilities can cope with the existing demand. Nor can local ports handle such heavy imports. Furnace oil and diesel are deficit products and are already imported through Karachi to meet the demand.

There is an extreme shortage of vehicles and public transporters have increased the fares, which is bound to complicate relief work as all public transport and trains run on diesel.

Other power plants in the vicinity, Kot Addu Power Station (KAPCO) and the Lal Pir Thermal Power Plant have also closed down due to the raging floods. Twelve turbines of KAPCO (1600mw) and two turbines of Lalpir (730mw) are inactive, plunging the country further into an energy crisis. Kot Addu and its adjoining areas have been without power for the last four days.

A major energy crisis is unavoidable, as Pakistan will once again suffer cuts in electricity, fuel supplies and would require sound management by the government. The UN has confirmed that billions of dollars are needed to deal with the aftermath of the floods, where rehabilitation and redevelopment of infrastructure will take centre-stage. Pakistan was supposed to come out of the country’s worst energy crisis by the end of this year. However, the recent floods are likely to plunge the country once again into short term spells of load shedding, and a soaring import bill due to costly furnace oil and diesel in the months to come. It is time that urgent measures are taken by the policy makers to assess the likely demand and cost of furnace oil and the country is saved from perennial darkness.

Saad Sarfraz Sheikh reporting from Mehmood Kot

Published in The Friday Times, August 13-19, 2010 | Vol. XXII, No. 26

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