May 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated May 29, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government is expected to pass on partial benefit of reduction in the prices of petroleum products to consumers to mop up additional revenues during the month of June.

In this regard, the Ministry of Finance has asked the Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) to formulate its summary for revision in oil prices on the basis of about Rs6.24 per litre increase in petroleum levy on petrol (MS 92RON).

Informed sources said that based on existing tax rates and import price of Pakistan State Oil (PSO), the price of petrol and high speed diesel (HSD) has been calculated to drop by about Rs11.50 per litre and Rs5 per litre, respectively.

However, the finance ministry has asked Ogra to calculate the petrol price on the basis of maximum permissible limit of petroleum levy at Rs30per litre instead of Rs23.76 per litre at present. As such, the ministry wants the prices of petrol and HSD to be come down by about Rs4 to Rs4.50 per litre.

These sources said the Ogra had also worked out current month’s prices on the basis of higher petroleum levy on the orders of the finance ministry but has since been warned by legal experts that such a practice could expose Ogra management to legal and accountability challenges.

Sources said the regulator had been advised by legal experts that it was not bound by any government directive or policy advice unless issued with express approval of the federal cabinet as required under relevant provisions of the Ogra Ordinance. The Supreme Court judgments were also in place that required the Ogra to accept only those policy advices of the cabinet if these were not in conflict with the ordinance.

Being a regulator, Ogra is required to work out oil prices on the basis of existing tax and petroleum levy rates notified in the Gazette of Pakistan by the federal board of revenue and director general oil of the petroleum division, respectively. No other instrument or a letter from finance ministry could be a replacement to gazette notification. The government has the prerogative to increase the rate of tax or petroleum levy anytime through gazette notification.

Based on existing tax rate and import price, the ex-depot price of petrol work out at about Rs70.20 per litre, down almost 13.4pc from Rs81.58 at present. The HSD price calculated at Rs75 for next month from current rate of Rs80.30 per litre, down about 6.2pc.

The Ministry of Petroleum, on the other hand, has advised the government to allow about Rs1 per litre allowance in the product pricing to allow oil marketing companies to recoup some exchange rate losses and the refineries to recover losses on account of import parity price to avoid shortage of petroleum products as refineries would be reluctant to operate on negative margins.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2020


Khurram Husain Updated May 30, 2020

KARACHI: A cluster of coal-fired power plants in the Thar desert, some of which are already operational, could expose around 100,000 people to harmful acidic gases exceeding safe limits established by the World Health Organization and 29,000 people could die from air pollution related causes over the 30-year operating life of the plants, a new study by an independent research organization shows.

The study was released in an online presentation on Friday by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), which describes itself as “an independent research organisation focused on revealing the trends, causes and health impacts, as well as the solutions to air pollution.”

The lead author is Lauri Myllyvirta, whose bio on the CREA’s website says he has “served as a member of the Technical Working Group on regulating emissions from large combustion plants in the EU and currently serves as a member of the expert panel on regulating SO2 [sulphur dioxide] emissions in South Africa.”

The report is titled: “Air quality, health and toxics impacts of the proposed coal mining and power cluster in Thar, Pakistan.”

More than 6,000MW worth of coal-fired power plants are in various stages of development in the country, authors say, of which 3,700MW is to be situated in the Thar desert.

One plant of 660MW capacity has already been commissioned there. “The proposed plants would constitute one of the largest air pollutant, mercury and carbon dioxide (CO2) emission hotspots in South Asia” the report says.

Aside from exposing 100,000 people to dangerously high levels of SO2 and 29,000 to air pollution related fatalities, the power plants complex will also lead to a sprawling array of health related complications.

“Other health impacts include 40,000 asthma emergency room visits, 19,900 new cases of asthma in children, 32,000 preterm births, 20 million days of work absence (sick leave) and 57,000 years lived with disability related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and stroke” the report says.

In addition to this, the power plants will release 1,400kg of mercury per year, “of which one fifth would be deposited on land ecosystems in the region”, the report says. Most of this deposition will be on crop land and increase mercury concentration in the food chain.

Eight coal-based power plants have been commissioned in Pakistan over the last three years, and one small plant has been operational since 1995. Taken together, the nameplate power generating capacity of these plants is 5,090MW, and another eleven plants with a total generating capacity of 6,208MW are still in the pipeline.

Authors also point out that Sindh province, where the bulk of coal-fired capacity is set to be established, already has a poor record of taking air quality seriously.

The Sindh Environmental Protection Agency, for example, does not provide ambient air quality reports routinely and in a transparent manner. Not only that, its Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) are much more relaxed than for the rest of the country or the WHO recommendations. “[W]hile the NEQS sets the PM2.5 limit for 24-hour mean at 35 µg/m3, the SEQS sets it at 75 µg/m3” the report says.

The authors also found serious gaps in how the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs)for these plants were done. “Did anyone even read these EIAs during their approval?” the author asked during his presentation.

“The existence of such elementary errors and omissions in the cornerstone data used in the EIAs makes it appear that the reports have not been independently reviewed by the regulator, raising serious questions about the level of regulatory oversight,” the authors say after reviewing all the gaps in the emissions data of the EIAs.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020


BR Web Desk May 30, 2020

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet has raised serious questions over the disbursement plan of Rs200 billion to the power sector entities and asked the Power Division to come up with criterion on Saturday (May 30) as to on what basis the payments would be made.

The ECC meeting presided by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh met on Friday to consider proposal of Power Division that sought approval for allocation of payments to be made to the power sector entities.

An official quoted adviser as soon as discussion started on the proposal “who decides how much payment is made to whom.”

After he was informed that the principal accounting officer (PAO) has been taking the decision and there was no criterion in this regard.

Adviser’s, according to the official, immediate response was that if the PAO has to take the decision as to how much amount would be disbursed to whom, and under what head than without any laid down principle, then what was the need to bring for ECC approval.

The adviser asked the Power Division to come up with the criterion because the forum of the ECC is to set principle.

The adviser deferred the approval and asked the Power Division to resubmit the proposal today (Saturday) with a precedent or anything in writing.

The ECC meeting was convened to consider criteria for disbursement of Rs200 billion Islamic Sukuk Facility respectively in the light of power sector audit report, however, an official claim that Power Division wanted simply allocation of amount.

He added that the adviser wanted clear criterion under which amount to be disbursed for power generation, capacity payment, and circular debt as well as for debt servicing.

A meeting of the ECC on May 6 decided that Power Division will evolve a viable criterion for transparent disbursement of payments to power generation and resubmit for consideration.

The Power Division prepared the criteria to disburse Rs200 billion that all IPPs will be paid in the manner that after disbursement of these funds the total payable to these IPPs remain equal or higher to the reported excess profits or systemic problems referred to in the committee report headed by Muhammad Ali, and after finalization/decision by the competent authority forum, the payables will be adjusted accordingly.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020


By Zafar Bhutta Published: May 30, 2020

ISLAMABAD: As an oil crisis looms that will eat up stocks, the government is likely to freeze petroleum product prices till June 15 in a bid to minimise volatility risk for the oil industry and stave off heavy inventory losses.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) was set to take decision in a meeting scheduled for Saturday. The Petroleum Division has pitched two proposals for ECC’s approval.

To avoid any shortage of petrol from June onwards, the Petroleum Division said the government needed to address the fundamental pricing issue by minimising volatility risk, reducing price risk from 30 days to 15 days and creating visibility in the price index.

Therefore, the forthcoming petroleum price revision may be announced from June 16 rather than from June 1, , the Petroleum Division said, adding that it would provide an incentive for oil marketing companies (OMCs) to import products at such prices at which Pakistan State Oil (PSO) was importing oil cargoes and thereby avoid inventory losses.

It said a previous decision of the cabinet taken on August 31, 2016 already allowed the fortnightly price revision.

The Petroleum Division said ex-refinery prices may be based on the average fortnightly/monthly Platts price plus premium (average premium based on the tender awarded by PSO) including PSO’s incidentals and ocean gain/loss taxes, etc as per the current practice.

This mechanism would be the basis for determining selling prices for both refineries as well as OMCs.

At present, the prices of petroleum products are determined under the ECC’s decision, whereby refineries are allowed to fix and announce ex-refinery sale prices on a monthly basis.

This is subject to the condition that ex-refinery prices of petroleum products cannot be more than PSO’s average actual landed price for imported cargoes of the previous month, which are priced on a cost and freight basis, and a five-day average of the Arab Gulf Market Platts price around the date of Bill of Lading.

In case of unavailability of PSO’s import prices, the ex-refinery prices are fixed as per the import parity pricing formula on the basis of prices published by the Platts Oil Gram for the Arab Gulf market. OMCs follow the same process with PSO’s benchmark being the price cap.

PSO has historically imported approximately four vessels each of high-speed diesel and petrol every month. Each cargo covers five pricing days.

The current pricing mechanism would generally mean that any current month’s price is roughly based on the average of previous month’s Platts prices (given there are 20-22 pricing days in a month).

There are over 10 active OMCs importing oil and they are bound to follow PSO’s price cap provided it makes commercial/business sense to them.

The present system of monthly price adjustment based on PSO’s previous month procurements, serves as a disincentive, especially when there is volatility in the market. Therefore, OMCs are reluctant to import when margins are unfavourable and instead let the inventory run dry. This, in turn, results in supply side insecurity at the national level.

“If we do not change the mechanism and continue with the present pricing regime, there is a high likelihood that not only would refineries curtail their production but also imports by OMCs (other than PSO) will be insufficient to meet demand, leading to widespread shortages/dryouts,” said the Petroleum Division.

It added that the proposed mechanism may allow OMCs to reduce inventory losses in the first 15 days and thereafter alignment with market conditions would be happening automatically.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2020.,stave%20off%20heavy%20inventory%20losses.



By RECORDER REPORT on May 20, 2020

Exporters have asked for cut in the power tariff following the global drop in oil prices, providing some relief to the industry.

Former chairman of Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP), Rafique Suleman said lower oil price in the international market will not only help to reduce the country’s oil import bill but will also comfort the inflation pressure.

He appreciated the steps taken by the federal and provincial governments for controlling the Covid-19 and said there is need to take some more measurers to facilitate the industry and export sector.

Following the massive reduction in oil prices in the world market, the federal government has already passed on the benefits to the general public and currently oil prices in the country are lowest level of last few years. He said the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the economies around the world and the industrial production of Pakistan is also facing many challenges.

In this situation, the federal government can provide some relief to the industrial and export sector by reducing the power tariff according to reduction in the world oil prices. There are a number of examples that the consumers have paid the differential of higher oil prices of previous years.

“In the current situation, where oil prices are falling in the international market, local electricity tariff should be revised lower side to support the industry and export sector”, Suleman demanded.

As the utility bills are major part of cost of production, the reduction in the power tariff will reduce the cost of production of industry and help to increase their competitiveness in the world market, he added.

The Covid-19 has hit all the segment of the society, particularly the industrial and export sector, which is facing severe financial crisis and this situation, reduction in the power tariff will be a major relief for the exporters, Suleman said.

“Our exports like other countries are already on decline and hopefully, relief in the power tariff will help to increase the exports and earn more foreign exchange for the country”, he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020


BR Web Desk May 24, 2020

The government has reportedly decided to disburse Rs 200 billion recently raised through Islamic Sukuk facility in the light of power sector inquiry report, which has already been rejected by the Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

Well-informed sources in the Finance Division told Business Recorder that the summary about disbursement mechanism/criteria was on the agenda of the ECC meeting held on May 21, 2020 but did not come under consideration due to paucity of time.

Sharing the details, sources said, Power Division submitted a summary to the ECC of the Cabinet seeking constitution of a committee to develop disbursement methodology for the Rs 200 billion raised through the Islamic Sukuk financing facility. The ECC on May 6 decided that Power Division will evolve a viable criterion for transparent disbursement of payments to power generation and resubmit for consideration.

In light of ECC’s directions, Power Division has prepared the criteria to disburse Rs 200 billion in a transparent manner which stipulates that all IPPs will be paid in the manner that after disbursement of these funds the total payable to these IPPs remains equal or higher to the reported excess profits or systemic problems referred to in the committee report headed by Muhammad Ali. And after finalization/decision by the competent authority forum, the payables will be adjusted accordingly.

The sources said, Energy Purchase Price (EPP) inclusive of GST will be given preference, so that the fuel stocks remain at their highest level, and payments to RLNG and coal-fired plants will be given preference.

The sources maintained that capacity payments will be disbursed to meet the debt servicing and taxation requirements for the quarter ending June 2020.

Payments to Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), Chashma Nuclear and partial settlement of import of power from Iran and NTDC transmission charges will be disbursed against capacity payments.

“These disbursements will strictly be followed for funds released for Rs 200 billion only,” the sources continued.

As per the existing disbursement methodology, CPPA-G is maintaining the overall percentage based on billing and payment since July 2017 will continue to be followed for other disbursements.

The sources said, such IPPs where the percentage is higher due to disbursement of March 2020 debt servicing, will get a minor share to meet operational requirement from this allocation.

The ECC recently constituted a new four member technical committee to negotiate with IPPs on reduction in tariff headed by Babar Yaqub, Chairman Federal Land Commission, Joint Secretary Power(Member), Muhammad Ali, former Chairman SECP and author of first IPPs report which the government withdrew from CCoE and Barrister Qasim Wadood.

This implies that PPIB and CCPA-G, the two main entities of Power Division dealing with the power sector have been excluded from the new committee. It is however, still a mystery as to why the first technical committee headed by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Power was dissolved. However insiders claim that the SAPM/head of first technical committee was criticized at a recent meeting of the CCoE after which the committee was dissolved.

Independent Power Producers, however, are of the view that none of the members have any background or experience in power sector.

“Quite surprising to note the name of Muhammad Ali who chaired the inquiry committee and completed the most controversial report. The fallout of the envisaged approach will be disastrous for future investment environment in the country,” said a representative of IPPs.

Minister for Privatisation, Muhammadmian Soomro at a recent meeting of federal cabinet cautioned about concerns conveyed by the Financial Advisors to the Privatisation Commission for privatisation of power plants, and interested (credible) shortlisted companies, over the report on IPPs and subsequent adverse comments in the press. It was feared that uncertainty might adversely impact the pricing and timing of transactions and, therefore, all such needed to be clarified immediately.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



Khaleeq KianiMay 12, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Claiming over Rs31 billion inventory losses in two months and negative processing margins, the country’s five oil refineries have sought a compensation-cum-bailout package from the government to sail through difficult times.

“An urgent relief package is required from the government for an interim period to ensure sustainability of renery operations failing which it may cause some irreversible damage or nancial collapse of reneries,” said a joint letter by all the five refiners to the ministry of petroleum, warning that otherwise it would result in massive unemployment in rening and allied industry in addition to compromise on energy security of the country.

Local reneries currently meet over 60 per cent of petroleum products requirements of the country. These include Byco Petroleum, Attock Refinery, Pak-Arab Refinery, Pakistan Refinery and National Refinery.

They said the slowdown or shutdown of any renery in the country had serious ramications including product shortages, dry outs, port constraints and heavy strains on country’s precious foreign exchange due to import substitution. This is also essential for maintaining energy security of country and catering to defence energy needs indigenously.

The managements of the refineries have reported to the Petroleum Division that business environment of the country during the last two years had remained very challenging and disturbing for refining. The unprecedented devaluation of Pak rupee against the US dollar, overall decline in sales of petroleum products especially furnace oil sales and its pricing due to change in its specication by International Maritime Organisation 2020 (IMO-2020) for shipping lines, low demand of fuel Oil in power sector and weak international prices have been the major contributors adding to the nancial difficulties for the reneries. All put together these factors have put “survival of the entire Pakistan’s rening industry at stake”.

The refiners claimed all these issued had been taken up with Petroleum Division from time to time with the request for intervention towards resolution of these issues. Despite all the serious challenges, the reneries were committed to undertake and upgrade their respective reneries. However, a comprehensive policy framework of incentives for renery expansion and upgradation from the Ministry of Energy was awaited as this involves $5-6bn investment in rening sector and could not be materialised without active support of the government.

The letter noted that the recent emergence of coronavirus pandemic has seriously affected the entire world including Pakistan. Amid the Covid-9 pandemic, local refineries have requested for deferring expansion and upgradation projects for some time.

The industry said the spread of Covid-l9 had a meltdown effect on global crude oil and product prices and had severely impacted the renery sector in Pakistan and worldwide, resulting in shape of reduced sales and steep decline of petroleum product prices. They said the reneries were carrying huge inventories acquired at higher cost prior to Covid-19 and then prices fell unexpectedly very low resulting in massive inventory losses during the last two months.

As a result, Attock refinery suffered Rs6.75bn losses in March and April, Parco faced Rs15.22bn, followed by Rs4.5 by National Refinery, Rs4.354bn by Byco and Rs2.7bn by Pakistan refinery. On top of that, as the price trend continues downward, further losses were also expected during the months of May and June, 2020.

In addition to the massive inventory losses, currently all the major petroleum products vis-à-vis current crude oil prices have huge negative spreads and it was not nancially viable for the reneries to process crude oil at these negative renery margins.

The letter noted that refinery margin was negative $7.4 per barrel, $13 per barrel negative on kerosene, $2.87 per barrel negative margin on high speed diesel and $6.84 per barrel negative margin on High sulphur furnace oil.

Based on these negative margins, economic operations of reneries in Pakistan are not sustainable and refining sector is facing an existential threat which needs to be addressed through urgent and pragmatic measures.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2020


Khaleeq KianiUpdated May 16, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on Friday expressed serious concern over the deteriorating performance of the power distribution companies (Discos), increasing circular debt and worsening governance in the power sector. It advised the government to immediately close down its power plants.

In its flagship State of the Industry Report 2019, the power regulator questioned the continuation of the federal Ministry of Energy, and Power Division, with the centralised control of day-to-day operations of public sector entities, which had led to unacceptable technical and financial performance. It challenged the government’s claims about improvements in the sector and reduction in circular debt.

“It is disappointing that in spite of regular directions and advisories by the regulator to the licensees and the relevant ministry, public sector entities have not been provided with any degree of control as required under the reform process,” said Nepra. It is more concerning to see that lately fundamental principles of reforms have been disputed, which have been followed in many countries to successfully bring transparency, quality, competition and lowering of electricity prices.

The regulator said the tinkering with tariff determinations by the ministry which was the sole domain of Nepra was against transparency and reversing the established regulatory regime. “It is advised that backtracking from the reform agenda and not following it in letter and spirit would leave the power sector in complete tatters and the negative drag of public sector resulting from poor governance would not only bring the sector down but also result in further slow-down of the overall economy of the country.”

Nepra noted that performance of six of the nine distribution companies declined or did not improve while three had shown a little improvement. The Pesco’s recovery position deteriorated about 1 per cent whereas Tesco showed an increase of about 1pc in recovery position in 2018-19 as compared to 2017-18.

In Punjab and capital territory, Iesco’s and Gepco’s recovery percentages dropped by 2.75pc and 0.89pc, respectively, while Lesco and Fesco had shown almost same recovery ratios in the last two years. Mepco improved its recovery by about 2pc this year over last year.

In the province of Sindh, Hesco’s recovery ratio deteriorated by approximately 2pc whereas Sepco improved its recovery position by 3.49pc. Qesco, operating in the province of Balochistan, improved its recovery ratio by 1.76pc.

The receivables of all the Discos increased by Rs248.85 billion, considerably higher than Rs166.26bn during FY 2017-18. As of June 30, 2019 the overall distribution sector receivables stood at Rs1,145bn whereas the receivables at the start of this financial year were at Rs896.1bn.

The regulator observed that the overall net efficiencies of Muzaffar­garh, Faisalabad and Nandipur (all public sector plants) remained very low. Due to various maintenance issues, forced outages and fuel constraints etc. considerably low annual capacity utilisation factors of 7.97pc, 0pc, 15.74pc and 39.10pc were noted, respectively, for these plants. The net efficiency of Nandipur for FY 2018-19 remained at 46pc, much lower than approved efficiency of 49pc on gas fuel.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2020



Khaleeq Kiani Updated May 09, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government is set to promulgate Pakistan Petroleum (Downstream Oil Sector) Rules, 2020 to transfer all oil and gas related regulatory functions and powers to the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), currently being exercised by a sub-ordinate department of the Petroleum Division.

The decision was taken following an advice from the law ministry which pointed out that after the promulgation of Ogra Law of 2002, powers being exercised by the directorate general (DG) oil of the Petroleum Division were in violation of law. “The provision of section 43, Ogra Ordinance overrides all other powers. It is settled law that rules being subordinate legislation cannot override the statute”, said the Ministry of Law.

Before Ogra Ordinance 2002, the downstream oil sector was regulated by the government under the Pakistan Petroleum (Refining, Blending and Marketing) Rules, 1971. DG oil, working under the Petroleum Division was the designated authority in the said rules.

In March 2006, downstream oil regulatory functions were partly transferred to Ogra through amendments in the Pakistan Petroleum (Refining, Blending and Marketing) Rules. Under these rules, the ‘authority’ was bifurcated between chairman Ogra and DG oil.

Section 44(3) (a & b) of Ogra Ordinance provided for change of ‘authority’ to Ogra in respect of these rules while section 44(3) (c) provided that these rules shall stand repealed to the extent that any rules are promulgated pursuant to Ogra Rules 2002.

Later, Ogra’s Pakistan Oil (Refining, Blending, Transportation, Storage and Marketing) Rules 2016 were promulgated in January 2016 but while framing their rules relating to oil regulatory functions, Ogra covered only those functions which were under its exclusive authority.

In view of the repeal clauses of Ogra Ordinance 2002, the Law Division gave its legal advice on the fate of Pakistan Petroleum (Refining, Blending and Marketing) Rules 1971 related to functions under exclusive authority of DG oil. The Law Division said that in Petroleum (Blending, Refining and Marketing) Rules 1971, the expression ‘authority’ had been changed and meant Ogra.

“Accordingly, the bifurcation of authority through SRO 236 of Mar 13, 2006 had no legal effect after the promulgation of Pakistan Oil (Refining, Blending, Transportation, Storage and Marketing) Rules 2016 and thus Pakistan Petroleum (refining, blending and marketing) rules 1971 now stand repealed”.

Consequently, in the wake of promulgation of Ogra’s Pakistan Oil Rules 2016 and legal opinion of the Law Division, Ogra is now in the process of undertaking remainder of the regulatory functions out of the repealed rules which were under the authority of DG oil.

Simultaneously, the Petroleum Division is framing a fresh set of rules to cover its policy and non-regulatory functions relating to downstream oil sector in the country. These would mostly give powers to DG oil for allocation of crude oil quantities to refineries, approval of specifications of petroleum products for both locally-produced and imported from abroad, specifications of finished lubricants, specifying minimum stocks of crude oil by refineries and petroleum products by oil marketing companies, export of surplus naphtha, crude oil and condensates etc.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2020