Shell-shocked Shell gets helping hand
A gas shortage looms after last Saturday’s LTTE air raid made a direct hit on the firefighting unit of the Kerawalapitiya storage complex of Shell Gas Lanka Ltd, which forced the company to shut down the facility.
Shell is the biggest gas supplier in the country with an 80 per cent share of the market. Market sources said the other main supplier Laugfs Gas is unable to meet the immediate shortfall even if it steps up its refilling operations.
It is learnt the seriousness of the situation is such, that the Presidential Secretariat itself had contacted Laugfs to extend a helping hand to Shell in this hour of crisis. Even prior to this intervention Laugfs had offered its fleet of tanker trucks for Shell use and also agreed to keep vital installations like hospitals, security forces camps, etc., supplied with its products, a Laugfs spokesman said.
A Shell Gas spokesperson said that by Wednesday its refilling facility at Mabima too had run out of stocks.
To meet the unexpected situation the Company rushed a consignment of gas to Colombo by ship on Wednesday, but unloading to tanker trucks has been hampered by inclement weather and strict security measures in place in the harbour, The Sunday Times learns.
Shell Gas Director Finance Rimoe Saldin said one bomb that fell on the complex had badly damaged three of the four huge firefighting pumps, while the other remaining pump too had been damaged.
Miraculously none of the four storage tanks, each with a capacity of 2000 tonnes had been hit.
Mr. Saldin said Shell was now in the process of airlifting three new pumps and pumping from the facility would not be resumed without the restoration of the fire fighting unit.
These ‘intrinsically safe pumps’, meaning they cannot even spark, are not the type of pump that can be bought off a store shelf, so it may take a few days or weeks to procure them. The estimated cost of restoring the firefighting unit is between US$ 500,000 and $1,000,000.
In the past there has been bitter acrimony between Shell and Laugfs with the former even obtaining a court injunction against the former refilling its gas cylinders.
The Laugfs spokesman said his Company could not increase supplies immediately as it takes about 30 days to arrange for a consignment to reach Colombo.