ISLAMABAD: The Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Company Limited (SNGPL) has so far collected approximately Rs5.3 billion on account of urgent gas connection fee after it launched the ‘Fast Track’ policy in February 2014 with the approval of OGRA. “This amount is treated as ‘Operating Income’ of SNGPL and utilized in accounting for the tariff of gas for consumers, so in this way the benefit goes to consumers at large,” a senior official privy to petroleum sector developments told APP. Under the scheme, he said an applicant desirous of fast track gas connection had to pay Rs25,000 as ‘urgent fee’ under the policy. “The applicant, who wishes to obtain a gas connection on the fast track basis by payment of Rs25,000, is included in a separate programme. It is not a matter of absolute priority as the application must be at least six-month old to qualify for the scheme. The criterion is approved by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA),” the official said.Replying to a question, he said the Fast Track scheme did not violate the rights of applicants under normal merit system as an annual quota of gas connections was fixed by OGRA. “At the time of approval of this scheme, OGRA had allowed a separate quota for Fast Track gas connections. So, normal merit and Fast Track connections have a separate quota, which is in the ratio of 90:10 respectively.” Justifying the Fast Track policy, the official said such schemes were also common on other public sector organizations like National Database and Registration Authority, Passport Department and Pakistan Post to facilitate the public, facing some kind of urgencies.Replying to another question, he said the number of applications for new gas connections on network was witnessing a gradual increase, as the backlog had mounted to 2.5 million, putting a challenge for the company to meet the demand. “The company issued almost 400,000 new connections during the last fiscal year and it has planned to continue with the same pace during the current year, but it is facing difficulties as the existing gas reservoirs are depleting and the country could not make any significant discovery since long,” the official said.He said efforts were being made to bridge the ever-increasing gap between demand and supply of the commodity by adding more Liquefied Natural Gas in the system, encouraging Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) sector, accelerating oil and gas exploration activities in potential areas and taking the trans-country gas pipeline projects to logical conclusion at the earliest.