Gas supplies disrupted, industrial consumers hit by oil sector strike (Roundup)

January 7th, 2009 - 9:10 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 7 (IANS) The first day of the nationwide strike by employees of public sector oil companies has seen gas supplies to industrial consumers getting disrupted Wednesday, even as the government arrested two employees under ESMA and suspended nearly 100 others across the country.The 45,000-strong Oil Sector Officers Association (OSOA), representing 14 organisations, called for the strike from 6 a.m. Wednesday, demanding higher wages.

According to association officials, two of their members, Narendra Goyal and Somesh Ranjan were picked up by the Delhi Police this morning from their offices under ESMA. They added that there were reports of suspension orders served to nearly 100 officials.

This evening, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora held another meeting with the agitating officials, who wanted the companies to revoke the suspension order in order to create an atmosphere of trust.

“The real area of concern is the gas sector, where production is really down. Only one out of seven streams in Hazira has been working. The gas production has been just 17 million standard cubic metres per day (MMSCMD), compared to the regular production of 50 mmscmd,” Petroleum secretary R.S. Pandey told reporters.

He added that due to the fall in gas supplies the major impact on the first day was on the industrial consumers like fertilisers and power plants.

Over a dozen fertiliser plants and three power plants have shut down due to the lack of gas supply, it is learnt.

“GAIL has intimated that it is ready to work, but depends on ONGC’s (Oil and Natural Gas Corp) supply of gas,” Pandey added.

An ONGC official said its gas processing plants at Uran and Hazira had been affected. “There has been no shift change which usually occurs at 8 a.m., so nobody has reported to work,” he said.

The Hazira-Bijaipur-Jagdishpur gas pipeline has also been shut down.

According to sources, the Gujarat government has alerted Gujarat Gas, Gujarat State Petroleum Corp and Adani Energy to fulfil demand in case of supply disruption.

Similarly, the petroleum ministry has also alerted Reliance and Essar, who have refineries in Jamnagar, to supply petroleum products to distribution companies, if the strike persists. The state-run Petronet LNG ltd, which started a routine maintenance shutdown for six days Wednesday, may be asked to resume work.

It has been learnt that 14 fertiliser plants and three power plants have shut down due to the lack of gas supply.

The crude oil production has also dipped with ONGC reporting that it has produced 270,000 barrels Wednesday, compared to 350,000 barrels daily.

Several refineries at Panipat, Mathura and Haldia are not working, the secretary said.

Pandey admitted that the impact of the agitation has been higher than expected.

On the brighter side, he said, the aviation and transport sector have not been affected.

He added that the government was sincere in listening to the grievances. Home Minister P. Chidambaram was ready to present a report on the wage issue within 30 days, Pandey said.

Petroleum Minister Deora appealed to the workers to give up the agitation. “There is no prestige issue. I appeal to them to please stop the strike,” he said.

The consumers will only start feeling the pinch once the retail outlets finish the sales of their present stock, which is expected to last about five to seven days. But, no panic buying has been reported so far.

“We have not experienced any panic buying in our petrol/diesel vending unit at least till now. As usual our clients are filling up their tanks with fuel in their vehicles,” said E. Shanmugham, who manages a fuel-vending unit in central Chennai.

In Kerala, more than 1,000 officers have struck work, but petrol and diesel filling stations are having brisk sales and many oil tankers are plying with supplies also.

“We have been told that barring Hindustan Petroleum no other oil companies have effected supplies,” Alex Valakalil, president of the Kerala State Federation of Petroleum Traders, told IANS.

In Gujarat, nearly 9,000 oil company officers joined the strike, union representatives said.

With transporters already on strike, the contingency plans put in place by companies have been complicated.

According to reports, the stocks of LPG and kerosene in smaller towns were precariously low. “The strike will create problems as the demand is at its peak due to cold weather conditions,” said Shukla, owner of an LPG outlet in Agra.

The government said that stocks of petrol and diesel will last about a month, with the situation varying from depot to depot.

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