The work on developing infrastructure for compressed natural gas (CNG) and piped natural gas (PNG) networks in 50 more places was initiated on Monday.

A commencement of work ceremony was held for these areas awarded under the tenth CGD Bidding Round for development of City Gas Development (CGD) Network.

Speaking at the occasion, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan said, “From 34 Geographical Areas in 2014, the CGD network is being expanded to 288 gas authorities throughout the country covering nearly 50 per cent of the geography and catering to nearly 70 per cent of the Indian population.”

It is estimated that 2.02 crore PNG domestic connections will be provided, 3578 CNG stations will open, and 0.58 lakh Inch-km steel pipeline will be set up in these 50 areas over 8 years. These gas authorities are likely to infuse investment of Rs 50,000 crores, an official statement said.

Commenting on how to meet this gas demand, Pradhan said that long term contracts have been signed for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG), and its sources are being diversified.

Read: Review of long-term LNG contract prices likely: Pradhan

Pradhan also said that the country is looking to renegotiate existing long term contracts at an appropriate time. He did not mention the contract or country he was referring to.

According to industry watchers, this would mean an attempt to lower the price of imported natural gas into the country.

“Household PNG connections have also seen a rise from 25.4 lakh consumers in 2014 to 50.43 lakh consumers today. In the last five years, the number of domestic PNG connections, CNG vehicles and CNG stations have more than doubled. The present share of gas in the energy mix in the country is 6.2 per cent compared to 24 per cent globally, and the aim is to increase share of natural gas to 15 per cent by 2030,” Pradhan added.

An official statement said that over Rs 5 lakh crores are being invested in gas infrastructure, which includes exploration, distribution, marketing, re-gasification and pipeline network laying among others.

India’s Domestic gas production was 32.87 billion cubic metre in 2018-2019. It is likely to go up to 39.3 billion cubic metre in 2020-21. The present LNG terminal capacity of 38.8 MMTPA will be augmented to 52.5 MMTPA in next 3-4 years, Pradhan said.

The gas grid presently is 16,788 km, and work is in progress for additional 14,788 km.