After electricity loadshedding in the summer, shortage of natural gas for heating homes in these harsh winters is the new crisis people across the country have been facing. Pakistan is not alone in facing a severe energy crisis, as the rest of the world, especially Europe, is also suffering from gas shortages for various reasons, the most relevant currently being the lack of natural gas supply from Russia owing to its war with Ukraine.
Pakistanis, however, are no strangers to the shortage of natural gas, especially in winters, as gas loadshedding has been a norm in large parts of the country for as long as anyone can remember. But this year the gas situation is perhaps the worst, with gas loadshedding in cities and areas that had never suffered on this count in the past.
Although households, commercial establishments and government offices have adopted renewable energy sources, like solar panels, in recent years, special attention needs to be given to what could be a ‘gold mine’ when it comes to natural gas.
The natural gas, more commonly known as Sui gas in Pakistan, is essentially methane in its composition. This methane is currently available in multiple forms, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) and natural gas.
The least used option is that of biogas. At the government level, it is practically nonexistent.
Methane produced from biodegra-dable sources is a practical solution to our crisis, as animal dung, or manure, is produced abundantly every day, and so far its only practical use is as a natural fertiliser.
Biogas in other countries is currently being used for multiple purposes, from producing electricity to heating homes. In Pakistan, the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) does recognise biomass as a source to produce electricity, but biogas as a source of heating and cooking has still not been developed the way it should have been.
Though individual and financially well-off cattle farmers are using biogas in a captive sense, we need to give special attention to this source of energy for domestic and industrial use. The policymakers need to work on this project so that biogas can be used as a viable alternative energy source in addition to natural gas, whose reserves have been diminishing in the country.
Biogas can be produced at a low cost compared to imported gas, and this can also address the shortfall in the winters.
Lastly, since this would be an indigenous source of gas, the country will be able to save the much-needed foreign reserves, improving the overall national economy, while it will also free us from dependence on other nations for our growing energy needs.