Nepali delegation leaving for China today

Kathmandu, November 21

A seven-member Nepali delegation comprising officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS), Ministry of Finance, Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) and Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology is leaving for Beijing tomorrow to sign a business-to-business (B2B) deal with China National United Oil Corporation (PetroChina).

The delegation led by Shambhu Prasad Ghimire, joint secretary of Administration, Corporation and Supply Management Division of the MoCS, will sign the deal after finalising all technical aspects of importing petroleum products from China. The deal will be based on the framework agreement, which both the oil giants had signed on October 28 to open petroleum trade with the northern neighbour.

Till date, the country has been entirely dependent on India for import of petroleum products.

NOC and PetroChina will finalise the details related to quality, quantity, price, loading capacity, loading method, and the route to bring gasoline to Nepal, among others, and ink the pact. After signing the technical agreement with PetroChina, petroleum trade with the northern neighbour will formally begin, as per Sushil Bhattarai, acting deputy managing director of NOC.

The government has been planning to import one-third of the current consumption volume from China. Nepal has sought the option of northern market to diversify petroleum import due to continuous disruptions in supply line along the Nepal-India border.

Nepal has already started bringing petrol from China. However, it has been provided as grant by the government of China to fuel-strapped Nepal. China has been providing load to Nepali tankers from Kyirong, which lies at a distance of 26 km from Nepali border of Rasuwagadhi.

In the initial talks China had said that it can give petroleum products from Shigatse that lies at a distance of 457 km from Nepali border of Tatopani because rail service is linked to Shigatse city. Shigatse-Lhasa-Tatopani route is more feasible than the Shigatse-Kyirong-Rasuwagadhi route because the road accessibility gets affected in the winter due to snowfall, as per NOC officials. While bringing fuel from Shigatse via Kyirong-Rasuwagahi route, fuel tankers need to travel 100 km more than Lhasa route.

However, the Chinese side is yet to open the Lhasa-Tatopani route, which was damaged due to the earthquakes of April and May.

Meanwhile, Nepal has also requested the Chinese government to provide 50 gas bullets and three storage facilities in grant assistance. On the request of MoCS, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent a letter to the government of China to provide grant assistance to build the storage facility and gas bullets to supply cooking gas. Though the country has its own tankers to ferry petroleum products, the country was reliant on Indian transporters to ferry cooking gas.

Nepal has requested 50 gas bullets of 14 tonnes capacity each as grant. Subsequently, support for storage facility has been sought in three locations, Panchkhal of Kavre, Khaireni of Tanahun and Trishuli of Nuwakot district, as per a high-level MoCS source.