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Multi-billion rupee project in the pipeline to push up SL’s fuel buffer stock to 3 months

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BY SURESH PERERA

Sri Lanka has embarked on an ambitious multi-billion rupee initiative to significantly improve the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) under an ongoing long-term plan to push up the buffer stock to approximately three months from the existing 21 days.

As a crucial element of the strategy, a new oil farm will be built at Muthurajawala, while enhancing the holding capacity at the Kolonnawa storage terminal in the backdrop of continuing talks with the Indian government to reclaim 84 unused tanks in the upper section of the Trincomalee oil farm.

The operation of the 99-tank Trincomalee oil farm complex was given to Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC), a subsidiary of Indian state-owned IOC, under a long-term lease in 2003. However, at present, only 15 tanks in the lower section of the gigantic British built WW2 era facility are being used by the Indian company.

“The minister is in talks with the Indian government to explore the possibility of using the 84 oil storage tanks now lying idle”, says M. Uvais Mohamed, Chairman/Managing Director, Ceylon Petroleum Storage Terminals Limited (CPSTL).

“We need to prioritize our focus on enhancing the available storage capacity as the national demand for fuel climbs by 5% per annum”, he said in an interview with The Sunday Island in his office at the sprawling, six-acre Kolonnawa oil terminal.

Sri Lanka’s annual import of fuel amounts to two million metric tons of crude oil and three million metric tons of refined oil.

The Chairman said that 50 acres were sought for the proposed Muthurajawala oil storage project (adjoining the existing CPSTL facility of 29 tanks) but only 25 acres were released. If the outright purchase of the land is considered too costly, a lease arrangement will be worked out.

“The idea is to build bigger oil storage tanks at the new Muthurajawala complex because they are more efficient and easy to maintain”, he explained.

Referring to the proposed storage capacity expansion at the Kolonnawa terminal, he outlined that the construction of nine new oil tanks are on the cards at a cost of Rs. 3 billion.

International tenders were called to build four 15,000MT, four 7,000MT and one 5,000MT oil tanks at the Kolonnawa complex, and bids were awarded to an Indian company to construct six of them, while the other three will be undertaken by a Sri Lankan enterprise using 100% local labor, Mohamed continued.

“One oil tank at Kolonnawa, which is unusable as it’s around 50 to 60 years old, will be demolished, while another with its bottom deck corroded can be repaired. We can do it for Rs. 50 million rather than spend Rs. 500 million to build a new one”, he said.

The Chairman stressed that Muthurajawala was earmarked for the new oil farm as Kolonnawa is a densely populated, cosmopolitan area with inadequate land resources for such a mega project.

“What is important is to enhance energy security by improving the country’s oil reserves to meet any contingency. That’s why we are looking at a three months’ buffer stock in the long run. This is a fair target because even a big country like the US maintains three to six months in oil reserves”, he noted.

Q: When do you expect to achieve the target of enhancing storage capacity under the ‘long-term plan?’

Within the next two to four years, we will be able to increase storage capacity by 100,000MT. The refurbishment of tanks, which are either not in use or cannot be used to their full capacity, is being undertaken. As a result, in another six months, we will be able to enhance capacity by 20,000MT. We are expediting the whole process. These are concrete plans, not wishes. Energy security is of paramount importance.

Q: You referred to talks with India on using 84 tanks in the Trincomalee oil farm. Has there been any headway?

The Minister is holding discussions on the matter, and as we maintain cordial relations with India, I think we will be able to work it out. This was government-owned land that was leased out to the IOC. The Sri Lanka government will decide on it. We should work together to make it viable and beneficial to the country.

Q: The CPSTL is largely dependent on the private sector bowsers for the distribution of fuel island-wide. Don’t you agree that CPSTL should have its own fleet of vehicles for this purpose in the event of a contingency?

At present, 88% of daily distribution of fuel is done by bowsers belonging to both the CPSTL and private owners. However, CPSTL owns only 158 bowsers, while around one thousand others are hired from private owners. I agree that we need to enhance our fleet to strike a balance. Though we have a good understanding with the private bowser owners, it is imperative that we have our own in sufficient numbers in case of an emergency.

We need to reduce costs and enhance efficiency through rail transport of fuel. We have added 27 more wagons to our fleet with the support of the CGR (Ceylon Government Railway). We maintain a bulk storage facility in Anuradhapura for distribution to the North. We have now procured six acres of land at Kankesanthurai for a proposed bulk storage facility to supply fuel to the North.

As the “bloodline of the nation”, it is our responsibility to ensure fuel supplies to all key segments of the economy, whether it is shipping, aviation, transport, power generation or industries. All of them depend on our service. We have to render an efficient and effective service to the nation to realize the President’s vision to make Sri Lanka prosperous.

Bringing greater efficiency to this sector even by a small percentage translates into a saving on the country’s foreign exchange reserves. It also has an impact on the trade balance and the economy as a whole.

Q: Was CPSTL able to achieve its target in terms of profits for 2020?

We were looking at a target of Rs. 1.6 billion, but even with the Covid-19 pandemic, we are optimistic of achieving Rs. 1.6 – Rs. 2 billion.

During the height of the Covid outbreak, we distributed hand and floor sanitizers free of charge to the police, armed services, health authorities and other key segments. During the general election, the Election Department made a big saving as we supplied the requirement of hand/floor sanitizers to polling booths.

At 42 years, Uvais Mohamed is the youngest Chairman to be appointed to the CPSTL. The brother of Justice Minister Ali Sabry, he is a management accountant with work experience in the United Kingdom, India and Bangladesh.

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COPE meets online for first time in its history

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by Saman Indrajith

The Parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) created a history by meeting online for the first time ever on Thursday.

The COPE had Secretaries of three Ministries joining in with its committee meeting through online (ZOOM) becoming the second parliamentary committee holding an online meeting in the country.

Thursday evening’s COPE meeting chaired by its chairman Prof. Charitha Herath connected online with Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Dr) H. S. Munasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Industries W. A. Chulananda Perera and, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government J. J. Ratnasiri via zoom technology.

The Environmental Audit Report on water pollution of the Kelani River was brought before the committee and the meeting held between the Chairman Prof. Herath, Ministers and Members of Parliament and secretaries and other officials continued without any technical hitches.

Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake said that facilities have been provided to hold meetings and discussions using online technology in two committee rooms in Parliament.

He said that Parliamentary officials had been working relentlessly for months to install the requisite technological tools and that the efforts have borne fruit and future Parliamentary meetings could be held online as a result.

The Committee on High Posts under the chairmanship of Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena also held a discussion with the new Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Kenya, who was living in Kampala, using online technology recently.

 

 

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Legatum Prosperity Index highlights SL’s development of education and healthcare sectors

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During the past decade

One of the key highlights of this year’s Legatum Prosperity Index was the improvement in Sri Lanka’s education and healthcare sectors over the past decade. These improvements were key to increase in prosperity within Sri Lanka, it was noted.

The London-based think-tank Legatum Institute launched the 14th Legatum Prosperity Index on November 17 2020.

The event commenced with the welcome address by the Chair of the Legatum Institute, Alan McCormick. 

Addressing the audience, the Chief Executive Officer of the Legatum Institute, The Baroness Stroud said that according to the Legatum Index, the global prosperity was at its highest level ever with 147 countries seeing their prosperity rise over the last decade.

Speaking at the launch, the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in the UK, Saroja Sirisena said that the end of the terrorist conflict in 2009 and the ensuing peace dividend, led Sri Lanka to achieve steady progress within the last decade.

She highlighted that the universal free education and healthcare policies of the country over seven decades are the pillars on which prosperity is built.

Director of Policy of the Legatum Institute, Dr. Stephen Brien explained to the audience as to how the Legatum Index is used to measure prosperity across the world.

The event was also addressed by the Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation in Africa, Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Biologist and Writer, Matt Ridley and Ambassador of Georgia in the UK Sophie Katsarava.

Legatum Prosperity Index is a global index that analyses the performance of 167 nations across 65 policy-focused elements, measured by almost 300 country level indicators and it is the only global index that measures national prosperity based on institutional, economic and social wellbeing.

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Quick Snacks and Party Recipes from North India with Sapna Mehra

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The Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre (SVCC), High Commission of India, Colombo, will be holding an online cookery demonstration on ‘Snack Time: Quick Snacks and Party Recipes from North India’ on December 5 at 11.00 am on its FACEBOOK page https://www.facebook.com/ICCRSriLanka.

This festival season, the Cultural Centre will present a virtual cookery demonstration by Sapna Mehra. Cooking has been a passionate hobby of Sapna since her childhood days. Growing up in a large family of 17 members, she was very keen on bringing variety to the dining table, and that’s when her cooking journey began, preparing simple wraps, and snacks.

She now specializes in cooking dishes from a variety of cuisines. Originally from Bangalore, she has lived in many cities across India and Sri Lanka, and at present resides in Delhi.

She has a Postgraduate degree in Marketing and has over 12 years work experience in the professional field.

All are cordially invited to attend. For more details, contact the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre on telephone No: 2684698 or Email: iccrcolombo2@gmail.com

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