Tenth round of licensing soon, to cover 50 districts
The tenth licensing round for city gas distribution will be launched in a couple of months to cover 50 districts, according to the chief of downstream regulator, which has just concluded the mega ninth round that auctioned permits for 174 districts. I think there is appetite among investors to take more. Many investors didn’t get as many GAs (geographical areas) as they expected. They may come forward to commit more investment on immediate basis,” Dinesh Kumar Sarraf, chairman of Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB), told ETin an interview. The tenth round is being planned to include places within 100 km of gas pipelines and to cover highways so that inter-city travel by natural gas-driven cars becomes a reality, said Sarraf. Besides the tenth round of auction, PNGRB is also preparing regulations for common access to more than a dozen city gas licence areas whose marketing exclusivity has expired, Sarraf said. In the ninth round, unprecedented in scale and participation, 400 bids were received for 86 geographical areas that covered 174 districts and 29% of the country’s population. PNGRB has already issued letters of intent to 84 winners and plans to issue authorisation, after receiving bank guarantees from them, by the month-end, Sarraf said. Bids for Jhajjar in Haryana and Vizag in Andhra Pradesh are facing legal challenges and will likely take months to settle. PNGRB is putting in place a robust system to monitor licensees’ project implementation, and plans to coordinate with state governments and other agencies such as municipal corporations, railways and highway authority to help companies resolve problems on the ground. The regulator is pushing industry to set up a centre of excellence, which will help city gas distributors pick up best practices and new technologies, jointly deal with equipment suppliers and prepare a common skilled talent pool. Many of the challenges are common to all companies. So we are urging them to come together to set up a centre of excellence,” Sarraf said.