2ND LEAD (Correction)

Gas shortage looming after LTTE air raid - paper

[TamilNet, Sunday, 06 May 2007, 14:27 GMT]
Sri Lanka is facing an imminent gas shortage after last Saturday’s LTTE air raid as the bombs had scored a direct hit on the firefighting unit of the Kerawalapitiya storage complex of Shell Gas Lanka Ltd, forcing the company to shut down the facility, the Sunday Times reported. Shell is the biggest gas supplier in Sri Lanka with an 80 per cent share of the market. Market sources told the paper the other main supplier - and Shell’s arch rival - Laugfs Gas is unable to meet the immediate shortfall even if it steps up its refilling operations.

It is learnt the seriousness of the situation is such, that the Presidential Secretariat itself had contacted Laugfs to extend a helping hand to Shell in this hour of crisis.

A Laugfs spokesman said his Company could not increase supplies immediately as it takes about 30 days to arrange for a consignment to reach Colombo.

Even prior to this intervention Laugfs had offered its fleet of tanker trucks for Shell use and also agreed to keep vital installations like hospitals, security forces camps, etc., supplied with its products, a Laugfs spokesman said.

In the past there has been bitter acrimony between Shell and Laugfs with the former even obtaining a court injunction against the former refilling its gas cylinders, the paper reported.

A Shell Gas spokesperson said that by Wednesday its refilling facility at Mabima too had run out of stocks.

To meet the unexpected situation Shell rushed a consignment of gas to Colombo by ship on Wednesday, but unloading to tanker trucks has been hampered by inclement weather and strict security measures in place in the harbour, The Sunday Times reported.

Shell Gas Director Finance Rimoe Saldin said one bomb that fell on the complex had badly damaged three of the four huge firefighting pumps, while the other remaining pump too had been damaged.

Miraculously none of the four storage tanks, each with a capacity of 2000 tonnes had been hit, the paper said.

Pumping from the facility would not be resumed without the restoration of the fire fighting unit, Mr. Saldin said. Shell was now in the process of airlifting three new pumps..

These ‘intrinsically safe pumps’, meaning they cannot even spark, are not the type of pump that can be bought off a store shelf, so it may take a few days or weeks to procure them. The estimated cost of restoring the firefighting unit is between US$ 500,000 and $1,000,000.


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