KOCHI: Why the subject Proposal
In India, petroleum products which are being transported within the country are mainly LPG, gasoline, naphtha, kerosene, diesel, furnace oil and LSHS(low sulphur heavy stock). The modes generally employed for their transportation are tank wagons(rail), tank trucks (road) and pipelines (both underground and above ground). Rapid industralisation and economic development have increased the movement of these products. The increased movements have also enhanced the hazards and risks to people and to their belongings.
Towards the end of 2009, an accident involving a LPG tanker at Karunagapally in Kollam claimed the lives of 12 people. In 2012, 20 people lost their lives when a LPG tanker overturned at Chala in Kannur.
In the first 9-month period of 2014, around 20 accidents involving tankers happened in Kerala. The only saving grace, fortunately, was that there was no loss of lives. A major disaster was averted when a fully-loaded LPG truck overturned near P S Mission Hospital, Maradu, Kochi on October 22, 2014. The driver
died on the spot. The last reported accident happened on October 8, 2015, when a LPG tanker, transporting gas from Mangalore Refinery to Kannur overturned in Kasargod. The driver and the helper escaped with injuries. Traffic got disrupted on the National Highway and people in the area were on tenterhooks for nearly 15 hours.
Why these accidents occur frequently
■ Bad condition of the road
■ Running time of the trips is very high
(Some LPG bottling plants and industries in central and southern Kerala get supplies from Mangalore Refinery. Similarly, Kasargod and even some parts of Bangalore are fed from Kochi Refinery. The travel time of these trucks vary between 8 to 12 hours)
■ Tankers not strictly observing road safety rules
How accidents can be reduced
Comparing transportation via wagons and pipelines, it has been found that tankers have been involved most in accidents. It is not possible to completely avoid transportation via road, but accidents can definitely be reduced, if not avoided by
■ Making better roads
■ By reducing the running time of the trips
■ By strictly enforcing the rules and regulations wit respect to road safety/movement of petroleum products
How running time of trucks can be reduced
To transport petroleum products within Kerala, underground pipelines can be laid between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod. Technology is now available to move more than one product through the pipeline. Petroleum products can be sent from Kochi Refineries through these pipelines. Storage depots can be established en-route between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod. They should have facilities to store all the petroleum products and also to load them into trucks. The retail outlets, small industries and the LPG bottling plans can get the supplies from nearby depots. LPG bottling plants and large industries can even get supplies directly from the pipelines.
The project can be christened South- North Pipeline Corridor Project’. This will reduce the running time of the trucks. The running time per trip will be less than four hours and hence, tankers can avoid night time travel. Eventually, the accidents will come down.
■ Transportation loss’ between petroleum refineries and retail outlets or end users will come down
■ The ‘fuel cost and the maintenance cost’ of the trucks will be substantially reduced
■ ‘Hydrocarbon pollution’ and ‘noise pollution will also be less
■ Will result in ‘conservation of crude oil’
How the project can be implemented
The condition of the roads in the state is very bad. Central and state governments can initiate required actions to construct ‘Express Highway’. The ‘Petroleum Products Pipelines’ can be laid underground alongside the Highway.
The construction of the Express Highway and the laying of the pipelines could be entrusted to a good contractor under Build-Own-Operator (BOO) or Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) basis. Better roads are essential for development and will reduce road accidents. The ‘South-North Pipeline Project’ and the ‘Express Highway Project’ when taken up together can be named ‘South-North Express Highway-cum Pipeline Corridor Project’.
Interim arrangement till project completion
The gestation period for the project will be around 3-5 years. During the period, all the retail outlets or LPG bottling plants and other bulk customers shall be directed to obtain supplies from the nearest depot or refinery. Such a step would avoid crisscross movement like Mangalore Refinery supplying products to Central/Southern Kerala and Kochi Refinery supplying Kasargod/Bangalore areas. It is essential that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas take the required action.
Extension of the project
The Express Highway and pipelines can be extended upto Mangalore Refinery in the north and upto Vizhinjam Port in the South. With work on the Vizhinjam International Seaport expected to begin soon, a petroleum refinery can be established in Vizhijam and raw petroleum products can be imported through the port at low cost. Subsequently, the refineries at Vizhinjam and Mangalore could also be connected to the products pipelines along with Kochi Refineries. It gives great flexibility for the supply and distribution of petroleum products in southern states.
The projects will result in energy conservation and also reduce vehicle accidents, transportation or maintenance cost of vehicles and pollution.
(The writer was the former functional director of Kochi Refineries Ltd, Kochi)