With Reliance Industries' KG-D6 gas field output dipping to an all-time low, the Oil Ministry has proposed to roster supplies to power plants to ensure better availability of the fuel.
Natural Gas production from KG-D6 block has dropped to below 20 million standard cubic metres a day this week, from over 63 mmscmd peak output achieved in August 2010.
The available gas is first supplied to fertiliser plants and LPG units and whatever little fuel is left is supplied to 25 power plants on pro-rata basis.
From the current production only 1 mmscmd of gas is being supplied to power plants, forcing many units to work at sub-optimal levels.
To overcome this, the Oil Ministry has proposed to roster gas supplies, official sources said. Under this scheme, gas will be supplied to power plants on rotation basis.
Plants will get fuel supplies needed for operating the unit at optimal capacity for a fixed period turn-by-turn.
"Due to shortage in availability of domestic gas many power plants are operating at low plant-load factor eading to inefficient usage of natural gas and lower production of electricity," the ministry's draft guidelines for rostering of gas said.
The ministry has sought comments on the rostering guidelines from stakeholders by February 28.
The rostering can be done only within a group of power plants under a single discom, the guideline said.
"On a monthly basis, the overall gas supply from each gas source to a power plant shall be same in energy terms as it would have been without rostering."
Sources said the Ministry, to begin with, wants to apply the scheme to six private power plants in Andhra Pradesh.
The acute shortage in availability of domestic gas for the power sector has lead to many of power plants operating at much less than the minimum required PLF.
The Dhirubhai-1 and 3 gas fields in the KG-DWN-98/3 or KG-D6 block in the Bay of Bengal have seen output fall from a plateau level of about 55 mmscmd in August 2010 to about 15 mmscmd currently.
MA oil field in the same block is currently producing just over 4 mmscmd.
Of the present production, about 15 mmscmd is supplied to fertiliser plants and 3.12 mmscmd gas goes to LPG extraction plant and the gas transportation pipeline's internal consumption.
A little under 1 mmscmd of gas is split between 25 power plants.