NEW DELHI: Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra is famous for its succulent Alphonso mangoes. But soon it may come to be known for the bowl that feeds India’s growing hunger for energy with a 10-million-tonne facility to import gas in ships.

State-run utility GAIL is working on this makeover plan that hinges on doubling the capacity of Dabhol power project’s gas import facility to 10 million tonnes a year, said company chairman B C Tripathi after hosting the seventh Asia Gas Partnership Summit on Saturday. The summit was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.

The 2,000 mw Dabhol power project, situated in Ratnagiri district, is operated by an equal joint venture of GAIL and generation utility NTPC. GAIL is in charge of the LNG terminal, while NTPC looks after the generation.

Tripathi said GAIL is looking to tie up about 2 million tonne of LNG (liquefied natural gas) for import at the Dabhol LNG terminal. “We are in discussion with suppliers for buying 1-2 million tonne a year of LNG on a short-term contract of up to three years,” Tripathi said. “It will all depend on how successful we are in commissioning the terminal”.

GAIL has restored the derelict terminal left behind by US major Enron after it went bust and the power project stalled over payback charges. The company is expecting the first gas cargo on Tuesday that will be used to test the facility.

The doubling of the terminal fits into GAIL’s long-term plan. The company has entered LNG trading and taken stakes and tied up gas supplies with US shale gas firms. Doubling the Dabhol LNG capacity would give the company a captive import facility. Combined with its own pipeline network and distribution set-up, the company will have a distinct advantage over rivals.

India is increasing LNG imports after Reliance missed production targets at KG-D6. Dabhol will be the third LNG terminal after Shell’s Hazira facility and Petronet’s Dahej terminal. Petronet LNG plans to start India’s fourth such plant in Kochi in the second half of this year.

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