Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources said oil and gas exploration companies had made five new discoveries during last four months, bringing the total number of finds to 98 in last four years. The discoveries made by oil and gas companies, including OGDCL PPL, MPCL, and OMV Pakistan, would produce 70 mmcfd gas and 636 barrels oil per day.

He said while addressing a news conference, “All these discoveries have been made in Sindh province, which will produce worth $ 150 million oil and gas annually as compared to present prices of the commodities being imported,”

He said the government was making all-out efforts to further accelerate oil and gas exploration and production activities in potential areas to achieve self-sufficiency in the energy sector. He termed the increased number of discoveries a ‘record’ set by the present government in a short span of four years, which so far added 944 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) gas in the transmission network across the country.

The minister set aside the impression that article 158 of the constitution, saying “In 2010, before the 18th constitutional amendment, SNGPL was getting a supply of 1665 mmcfd gas for distribution in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, which has reduced to 1120 mmcfd gas after the amendment.”

Replying to a question, the minister said 1.5 million new gas connections had been issued by the current government so far, and before its tenure completion, the number would reach two million. “It is the hallmark of the government that all gas connections have been issued on merit and turn,” he said.

He said there was the backlog of two million applications for gas connections in 2013, which the company was now clearing gradually.

Abbasi further said currently 600 mmcfd Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) was being imported, which greatly helped in meeting the country’s energy requirements as all gas-based power generation plants were now functioning fully, 1200 CNG stations restarted their operations, industrial and fertilizer sectors getting uninterrupted supply.

Before LNG import, the minister said Pakistan was importing one-million-ton fertilizer per year and now it was exporting six million tons fertilizer. He said LNG import from Qatar would not affect the prevailing political situation in Gulf, “It is not only Pakistan that is importing LNG from Qatar rather our neighbor and nine big economies of the world are the commodity importers.”

Terming LNG the cheapest source of fuel, he said world’s major players were showing interest to invest in LNG sector of Pakistan by setting up their own terminals and developing transmission network to supply the commodity to consumers, adding that the government wanted to involve the private sector in this sector. “There will be good news in next few weeks in this regard,” he said.

When asked to comment on the circular debt of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO), he said the debt has reached Rs 200 billion, and there was no fear of default.

Commenting on the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, the minister said a few international sanctions on Iran were causing a delay in execution of the project. He said as soon as the sanctions were lifted, practical work would be started on the project.

Answering a question, Abbasi said in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa around Rs 7 billion gas was being stolen annually and the provincial government was doing nothing for its prevention.