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Union Cabinet to consider hiving off GAIL (India) pipeline business

Wednesday, 16 Oct 2019
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The Union Cabinet might consider a proposal in November 2019 to hive off GAIL (India) pipeline business into a separate entity, but its sale to a strategic investor may not happen before 2022.

GAIL (India) owns more than two-thirds of the country's 16,234 km pipeline network. Users of natural gas have often complained about not getting access to GAIL's 11,551 km pipeline network to transport their fuel.

In order to resolve the conflict arising out of the same entity owning the two jobs, bifurcating GAIL is being considered. A proposal is likely to be moved before the Union Cabinet for transferring the pipeline business into a 100 percent subsidiary.

After the Cabinet approval, a consultant will be appointed to transfer the pipeline business into a separate subsidiary. This will take eight-10 months to accomplish. However, selling off the pipeline subsidiary to a strategic investor is not likely before 2022 as the government thinks that the gas market will not be mature before that and state support will be needed for GAIL to accomplish building a national gas pipeline grid.

GAIL (India) will continue to own the marketing business as also the stakes in liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. The strategic partner will operate the pipelines and give access on a non-discriminatory basis to any entity wanting to transport gas either from a natural gas field or an LNG import terminal to consumers.

By unbundling GAIL (India) and opening the sector, the government hopes to increase gas use to 15 percent of the energy mix by 2030 from the current 6.2 per cent. The

Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and the Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL) had in 2017 evinced interest in acquiring GAIL (India) to expand their gas marketing business. GAIL (India) also owns a petrochemical plant at Pata in Uttar Pradesh, which too could be sold to either IOC or BPCL.

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