The 444-km long natural gas pipeline was launched in 2009 at an estimated cost of Rs 2,915 crore, and was to be commissioned five years from the project commencement.

Pipelines of GAIL carrying natural gasImage credit: I&PRD Kerala
news Infrastructure Thursday, July 23, 2020 - 13:33

The Kochi-Mangalore gas pipeline project supplying Regasified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG) is set to be commissioned in August, officials of the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) said. The 444-km long natural gas pipeline was launched in 2009 at an estimated cost of Rs 2,915 crore, and was to be initially commissioned in 2014.

Stiff opposition on the grounds of safety and the price of land -- which was the main point of contention, both from political parties as well as from the public led to the project’s delay, which resulted in its cost nearly doubling to Rs 5,751 crore.

At present, the last leg of the engineering work is near completion and will be completed within the next fortnight, authorities said.

"The project will be commissioned soon. We really had a tough time from an executional and engineering angle in laying the pipe across the Chandragiri river in Kasargod district. Of the total length of 1.5 km of this stretch, only a small portion is left now which will be completed by the first week of August," Tony Mathews, the head of Kochi-Mangalore Pipeline and the general manager of GAIL in Kerala, told PTI on Wednesday.

“The headquarters can now choose an appropriate date for the official commissioning. We need maximum 10-15 days more to make the pipeline ready for commissioning,” he added.

Read: Eight things Jayalalithaa wrote to PM Modi on GAIL issue

Mathews said another delay, after the thorny issue of land acquisition was resolved by offering market price to landowners, was the deluge that the state suffered in 2018 and also the Nipah virus scare in 2018 and 2019 and the COVID-19 driven lockdowns this year.

Describing the Chandragiri river stretch as an engineering marvel and the toughest stretch in the entire 444-km long project, Mathews said this 1.5 km stretch goes up to 8 meters deep in the river bed at some places for 24-inch pipes.

It has an elevation difference of 148 meters, as the river flows down a deep valley, making it one of the rarest engineering projects for the entire pipeline network across the country.

This is despite the project crossing as many as 96 waterbodies south of the Chandragiri.

"The problem with this stretch is that the river flows down through a valley to the Arabian Sea, forcing us to drill horizontally from under the river bed. We have been working on this site for the past six-seven months, but finally our contractors NR Patel & Company has done a wonderful job," he says, adding that horizontal drilling has helped them contain environmental damages.

Mathews said the first phase of the project was commissioned in August 2013 in the Kochi metropolitan areas with industrial supplies and domestic supplies from February 2016 by Adani.

Today the pipeline supplies 3.8 million cubic meters of gas everyday to industrial and residential customers in Kochi and is set to cross 4 million cubic meters soon in the city itself, while Mangalore has a potential of 2.5 million cubic meters per day, said Mathews who has been with the project since 2012.

He said on commissioning the pipeline, gas demand in the state will touch 80-90 million cubic meters per annum from 60 million cubic meters now.

Apart from huge environmental gains, the state can also gain monetarily as it can get up to Rs 800-900 crore by way of taxes alone. Already, Kerala is gaining Rs 340 crore in taxes.

Read: People vs. GAIL: Why a gas project has this Kerala village at the verge of violence

Watch protest against GAIL project in Kerala in 2017:

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