Thukten Zangpo 

The country has fuel reserves to last for two weeks in the worst-case scenario. This is the message from the economic affairs ministry following a rumour of fuel shortage that forced many to the fuel stations.

Some of the western regions had no fuel supply from today following the rumour that there will be a long fuel shortage in the country for weeks and even months.

In Thimphu, hundreds of cars were lined up between Ngabiphu and State Trading Corporation of Bhutan Limited’s (STCBL) fuel depot.

However, it was learnt that fuel supply from India had stopped since June 12 because two Indian fuel suppliers – Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) – had not updated their information online which was mandated by the Indian government’s new customs requirements.

The line of vehicle waiting to refuel at the STCBL outlet at Jazam, Thimphu starts at the RTC/Thimphu junction at 10 PM last night

Since then, there was no supply of fuel from these oil dealers to the Tashi Bhutan Oil Distributor (BoD), Damchen Petroleum and Druk Petroleum.

However, fuel supply was not interrupted from the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) and was readily available at the STCBL outlet.

Minister of economic affairs, Loknath Sharma said that there is no shortage of fuel and that people should not rush. He added that it is an export and import customs issue at Jaigaon, India custom gate due to a new requirement which will be cleared soon.

“Any disturbance for a day or two will not lead to shortages. People must refrain from rushing to fuel pumps for now,” Lyonpo said.

The chief trade officer of the department of trade, Rinchen Lhazom said that the two Indian oil suppliers were still using the old system. “The fuel supply is not interrupted from the HPCL to the STCBL fuel depot,” she said.

It was learnt that Indian oil suppliers were asked to have a uniform account to improvise tax and tracking systems.

Rinchen Lhazom said that six fuel tankers were allowed into Bhutan today upon special request.

Should there be a shortage in supply, the country has enough fuel stock in the depot to last for two weeks. “1,000 kilolitre (KL) each of petrol and diesel is buffered at Thinchupangkha, near Chuzom,” said Rinchen Lhazom. She also said that the foreign ministry has been alerted and the ministry is taking up the issue with the government of India.

The Regional Manager at Tashi BoD, Lungtenzampa, Dendup Tshering, said that the fuel depot has not received fuel supply for three days. He said that the 100KL of petrol and diesel each are available at the Tashi BoD which would be adequate for two days.

Officiating deputy managing director of Tashi BoD, Melam, said that the Indian customs have upgraded the new system which requires Indian suppliers to have an account for export-import code with a uniform account number.

“We are in talks and sorting out the issue. BPCL and IOCL are still in the process of activating the account,” he said. Melam said that 18 tankers are still stranded in Jaigaon.

He said that the Tashi BoD can provide fuel for the next two to three days. “We are rationalising while providing fuel,” he said, adding that the activation of the online system is expected to take about 72 hours.

Metsina (Lobesa) Druk Petroleum’s assistant in-charge, Norbu Gyeltshen, said they ran out of fuel today and people are raising concerns about fuel shortage.  It is the paddy transplantation season in the Punakha and Wangdue valley. Diesel is important for farmers who long ago gave up raising bulls as a beast of burden.

General manager of Bhutan Petroleum Division, STCBL, Sugan Pradhan said that five oil tankers (4 diesel and 1 petrol) carrying 12 KL each reach their outlet every day. “If there is a rush, the outlet could be out of fuel by 8 pm every day.  But it would be available in the next 2 to 3 hours,” he said, adding that it would take an hour or two for the next shift of the tankers to come and refill.

The average estimated daily consumption of petrol and diesel is 137KL and 410 KL respectively in the country.