Motihari-Amlekhgunj fuel pipeline to start operation in 30 months
Kathmandu, May 22
Back in August 2015, Sunil Bahadur Thapa, the then minister for commerce and supplies, and India's Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan signed an agreement to construct the Raxaul-Amlekhgunj Petroleum Pipeline Project (later renamed as Motihari-Amlekhgunj Petroleum Pipeline Project) on behalf of their respective governments.
One of the major provisions in the memorandum of understanding (MoU) was to complete the project within 30 months from the date of receipt of statutory clearances. As a majority of legal issues associated with the project has been addressed by both governments and the pipe-laying process of the project has already commenced, it is essential that the cross-border pipeline project is completed within the designated time.
As Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) claims that the actual construction works (pipe laying process) of the project began from April 17, the project should be completed within mid-October 2020 as per the agreement that the two countries have reached.
Now the question is, will the project be completed within the given deadline?
“Yes, the project will meet the 30-month deadline,” claims Sushil Bhattarai, acting deputy managing director of NOC.
According to him, the process of laying the pipes along almost 10 kilometres of the pipeline route has been completed in the last one month, except for the welding works, hinting that the project can be completed even before the given deadline. Meanwhile, both the governments are keen to complete the project on time.
The Likhit Infrastructure, a construction company based in Maharashtra, India has got the contract for laying and welding the pipeline.
However, the project's fate cannot be decided only on the basis of Bhattarai's claim as there are a few examples of Indian projects in Nepal missing deadlines like Postal Highway and Integrated Check Posts, among others.
Nevertheless, Bhattarai says that Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) - the developer of the oil project- has a reputation of completing projects on time. “As delay in construction of a few Indian projects has given rise to negative sentiments towards Indian developers, both NOC and IOC are committed to prove it wrong by completing the cross-border oil project on time,” he said, adding that it could actually be completed before the deadline.
Meanwhile, it is undeniable that the fuel project is under high priority of both the governments. Prime Minister of Nepal, K P Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi had launched the ground-breaking ceremony of the Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil project through live-streaming at Hyderabad House, New Delhi, on April 7..
Stretching over 69 kilometres, the project involves laying a 10.75-inch diameter cross-country pipeline, with fuel pumping facilities at Motihari. Out of the total length, 32.7 km of pipeline will be laid in Indian territory and 36.2 km will be laid in Nepali territory. The pipeline will have the capacity to supply 200,000 litres of fuel per hour.
Though the two countries signed the project agreement in 2015 with the target to complete within 2017, it got delayed due to several policy hurdles. Consequently, the cost of building the Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline is expected to have gone up by at least 15 per cent compared to the initial projection owing to the inflation of construction materials required for the project like pipes, rods, cement and labour costs, among others.
Nevertheless, the INR 2.75 billion-petroleum pipeline project is expected to be crucial to ensure regular supply of petroleum products in Nepal and reduce fuel transportation costs.