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Fuel shortages hit nearly a quarter of Pakistan's operational power plants

Highlights

Fuel shortages most acute in gas, LNG

Little room left to increase gas supply for power sector

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Nearly a quarter of Pakistan's operational power generation capacity of 28 GW has been shuttered due to fuel shortages and adverse weather conditions, with most of the outages at gas-fired power plants, according to market sources and government officials.

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The prolonged outages are adding to power shortages even as the government takes measures to shore up fuel imports, ration fuel supply to essential sectors and cut demand from non-essential sectors.

Pakistan has a total installed power generation capacity of nearly 41.5 GW, but of this only around 28 GW has been operational in recent years due to various technical issues, according to official data.

Of the operational capacity, about 14 power plants with a combined 6-7 GW of power capacity have been offline in recent weeks due to the worsening fuel shortages, according to data compiled from analysts and officials.

While most of the shuttered thermal power generation is based on either domestic natural gas or imported LNG, at least two power plants were closed due to shortages of fuel oil, one due to low coal inventories, and one major hydroelectric power plant.

Around 18 plants were impacted by technical faults and a lack of repair and maintenance, Yawar-uz-Zaman, head of equities at Karachi-based brokerage house Pearl Securities, said. He estimated that as many as 27 power plants with a combined capacity of more than 7 GW were out of order due to various reasons.

A government official confirmed ongoing closures of at least 10 power plants, including the 1,478 MW Tarbela hydroelectric plant in the northernmost province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the 646 MW Jamshoro thermal plant in Sindh province, and another 310 MW plant at Port Qasim near Karachi.

"Four plants including Rousch, Nandipur, Fauji Kabirwala and Gas Turbine Faisalabad remain closed amid RLNG shortage," Zaman said. These power plants in Punjab province totaled around 1.33 GW in capacity.

"Two plants including Liberty and Habibullah Coastal power plants remained closed due to the gas supply disconnection by Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Ltd. and the expiration of a gas agreement," he said. These plants had a capacity of around 200-250 MW.

"The main factors behind the closures of the gas run power plants are mostly due to the expiration of a gas supply agreement, and supply disconnection by Sui Northern Gas on account of non-payments as the fund is obstructed in intercorporate debt, known as circular debt," Abdullah Umer, a research analyst at Ismail Iqbal Securities, said.

Between May and June alone, around 900 MW of gas-based power plants are likely to have closed or produced negligible capacity due to unavailability of gas, Umer said.

He said there is little room left to increase gas supply for the power sector and the government is unable to pass higher fuel costs to consumers due to regulated power prices.

Meanwhile, hydroelectric electricity production has been affected by low water availability in reservoirs due to delayed melting of ice in the north, despite earlier-than-expected warm weather in the south, indicating continued weather anomalies.

Pakistan power plant closures due to fuel shortages:

Name

Capacity (MW)

Fuel type

Tarbela

1478

Hydropower

Northern Block

1472

Thermal

Jamshoro

646

Thermal

Nandipur

567

Thermal

Guddu Block 2

530

Thermal

Rousch

450

Thermal

Port Qasim

310

Thermal

Liberty

200

Thermal

Fauji Kabirwala

170

Thermal

Gas Turbine Faisalabad

144

Thermal

Habibullah Coastal

129

Thermal

Lakhra

31

Thermal

Altern Energy

27

Thermal

TPS Quetta

25

Thermal

Channar Energy

22

Thermal

Total

6201

Thermal

Sources: Industry, govt, company announcements

Table: Pakistan's Fuel-wise Installed Capacity Breakup July-April FY2022

Fuel type
Installed (MW)
Percentage (%) Share
Hydel
10,251
24.7
RLNG
9,884
23.8
RFO
5,958
14.3
COAL
5,332
12.8
Gas
3,536
8.5
Nuclear
3,647
8.8
Wind
1,985
4.8
Solar
600
1.4
Bagasse
364
0.9
Total
41,557
100.00%

Source: Ministry of Energy (Power Division)

Table: Pakistan's Share in Electricity Generation in (GWh)

Fuel type
FY2021 (GWh)
FY2022 (GWh)
FY2021 % share
FY2022 % share
Thermal
71,178
74,862
62.52
60.9
Hydel
31,730
29,181
27.87
23.7
Nuclear
8,218
15,182
7.22
12.4
Renewable
2,715
3,709
2.38
3
Total
113,842
122,934
100
100

Source: Ministry of Energy (Power Division)