The central government aims to make India a gas-based economy by boosting domestic production and buying cheap liquefied natural gas. It also aims to rebalance its energy mix by focusing on renewable sources. The government has set a target of increasing the share of gas in the primary energy mix from 7 per cent at present to 15 per cent by 2030. With the loosening up of regulations by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) and successful tenth PNGRB bidding round, 228 geographical areas (GAs) have been brought under the city gas distribution (CGD) network, covering 70 per cent of country’s population and approximately 53 per cent of the area. With the eleventh bidding round expected to be announced in April 2020, the regulator is working towards opening up more areas for GGD development.

IGL’s current business and expansion plans

Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) is currently operating at nine GAs – Delhi, Noida, GautamBuddh Nagar, Ghaziabad, Rewari, Gurugram, Karnal, Shamli and Muzaffarnagar. These GAs had been allocated to IGL in the first nine rounds of CGD bidding. In the tenth bidding round, it was awarded three new GAs – Ajmer, Pali, Rajsamand; Kanpur, Fatehpur, Hamirpur; and Kaithal. As of June 2020, IGL’s existing infrastructure comprises 555 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, and 1,375,000 domestic, 5,566 industrial and commercial connections. Its pipeline infrastructure spans 13,455 km of medium density polyethylene (MDPE) pipelines and 1,150 km of steel pipelines. Further, work is under way for laying steel pipeline networks in the new GAs awarded under the tenth bidding round. On the performance front, IGL’s sales grew at a rate of 9.3 per cent in 2019-20. Further, its return on capital employed has risen consistently over the past few years, standing at 28 per cent in 2019-20.

In light of the government’s renewed focus on the gas sector, IGL is expanding its CGD network in existing as well as newly awarded GAs. It has defined its expansion plan for new GAs on the basis of the minimum work programme (MWP) committed to the PNGRB during the bidding process. However, the MWP is not IGL’s sole target, as it plans to accomplish more in the stipulated time period. It has planned a capex of Rs 17.52 billion for 2020-21. The highest capex is planned for Ajmer (new GA), followed by Delhi and Gurugram. IGL plans to incur a cumulative capex of Rs 130 billion by March 2024.

IGL’s expansion plans for 2020-21

GA Domestic PNG connections (no.) Steel pipeline (inch-km) MDPE pipeline (km) CNG stations (no.) Sales (mmscmd) Capex

(Rs billion)

Delhi 100,000 224 600 9 5.07 3.88
Noida 12,000 40 132 2 0.51 0.47
Greater Noida 12,000 40 132 2 0.37 0.48
Ghaziabad 37,000 238 407 2 0.54 1.43
Gurugram 38,613 491 585 16 0.79 2.29
Rewari* 8,902 650 33 1 0.08 0.20
Karnal* 7,032 717 22 1 0.03 0.42
Kaithal* 9,914 162 118 5 0.02 0.97
Muzaffarnagar* 21,109 702 218 5 0.09 1.72
Kanpur* 14,400 234 171 7 0.03 1.47
Ajmer, Pali* 100,094 389 1,165 30 0.07 4.19

*Expansion plan as per MWP; mmscmd: million metric standard cubic metres per day

Impact of Covid-19

During the initial three months of the lockdown, IGL’s business activities came down to about 10 per cent. Its CNG sales were drastically reduced by 90 per cent due to reduced mobility throughout the country. Therefore, IGL operated only 50 out of the 500 CNG stations during the lockdown. The return of migrant labour to their native places further affected the industrial and commercial activities, resulting in reduced sales for the IGL. The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic has also affected its targets for the GAs at Ajmer, Pali, Rajsamand, won under the 10th bidding round of PNGRB. However, IGL been successful in achieving its MWP targets in GAs in Haryana for the current year. It is now resuming its project activities by making necessary arrangements for availability of labour at site so that the work progress is not hampered. It is also facilitating most of its office work from home through MS teams. Besides, it is strengthening the process automation to reduce manual intervention in meter reading, payments etc.

Key issues and challenges

Despite a number of favourable regulatory developments, the CGD segment continues to face some inherent issues. One of the key issues is the lack of support from state governments in terms of making land available for setting up CNG stations. Further, the absence of a joint working committee comprising central and state government representatives has resulted in huge time delays between the planning and execution of projects. Also, the involvement of multiple landowning agencies results in unnecessary delays in land acquisition. Therefore, the segment needs constructive reforms on both the policy and regulatory fronts. Besides, there is a need to promote research and development activities to ensure the use of better technologies and processes to improve performance and ensure gas conservation. Further, innovative designs and business models need to be explored and deployed. There is also an urgent need to ensure local availability of equipment and services.

By Manjeet Singh

Manjeet Singh is senior vice president, project engineering and JV coordination, at Indraprastha Gas Limited. He has been involved in the development of CNG and PNG network in Delhi for the distribution of natural gas. He introduced the concept of canopy-mounted equipment for CNG outlets. Mr Singh was the chairman of the subcommittee constituted by PNGRB for the formulation of T4S for the CGD industry.