Fuel crisis looms
No major gas reserves struck in 8 yearsManjurul Ahsan
Fuel crisis continues to threaten the country’s energy security as no major discovery has been made in gas sector either by the state-run or foreign companies in last eight years.
The last major discovery of a 0.5 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas was made in Bangura field by Irish oil company Tullow in 2004. The other discovery was Srikail gas field made by the state-run Bapex in the same year although drilling of the exploration well apparently failed at that time. The recoverable reserve of gas in the Srikail field was estimated at about 250 billion cubic feet in 2012.
According to a Petrobangla projection, the country’s need for natural gas will be 3,342 million cubic feet a day by the current year which will be 3,746mmcfd by 2015.
‘But Petrobangla would supply about 3,000 million cubic feet of natural gas a day by 2015,’ an official of the state-run Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources Corporation told New Age.
M Tamim, a professor at petroleum and mineral resources department in Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, told New Age, ‘If it is a question of energy security, there should be certainty of supply of primary fuel to the power plants and other industries for at least 10-12 years.’
‘But we already have gas scarcity and the pace of on-going oil and gas exploration is hardly satisfactory,’ he said.
Officials and experts said that the government‘s failure in beginning the use of imported coal in power generation was increasing pressure on natural gas – a limited national resource which is being exhausted quickly – and dependence on high-cost imported fuel oil.
It has also failed to finalise a much-talked-about coal policy for extraction and use of indigenous coal although Bangladesh has a proven reserve of 3.3 billion tonnes of high quality coal in five deposits located in northern districts, they said.
Besides, the government’s plan to import liquefied natural gas to supply at least 500 million cubic feet of gas a day to the national grid by the middle of 2013 has been deferred by at least three more years as the authorities failed to award a project to a company to install a floating terminal in the bay.
In oil and gas exploration, the state-run Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration Company or Bapex and Santos, an international oil company, have only struck two reserves with about 50 billion cubic feet of natural gas – one at Sundalpur in Noakhali and the other at Sangu gas field in the Bay of Bengal.
Bapex found the Kapasia structure dry. The much-talked-about Sunetro gas field could be a similar case as experts have found no sign of gas in the structure although an exploration well passed through two expected zones into 4,000 metres depth.
US oil company Chevron drilled three exploration wells at hydrocarbon block 7 in Patuakhali and block 14 in Moulavibazaar but found no recoverable gas.
The three dimensional seismic survey team of Bapex reassessed the gas reserves at two fields – Rashidur and Titas – that yielded an additional reserve of about two trillion cubic feet of gas.
Against the backdrop of such disappointing performance in oil and gas exploration, an increase in gas production in the known gas fields has become the only option to meet the growing domestic requirement.
Chevron will increase gas production by 300mmcfd in the Bibiyana gas field by 2014.
Gas production companies in the public sector have planned to increase output by up to 500mmcfd by 2014 from different gas fields.
Meanwhile, the net production of gas has increased by 500mmcfd from a daily production of about 1,750 mmcfd in last four years.
The government, however, did not assess the rate of fall in gas production in different fields.
Experts and officials said that Bangladesh needed to find out, on an average, new gas reserves of one trillion cubic feet a year to meet the increasing demand.
To achieve the objective, they said, at least 10 exploration wells should be drilled a year at different potential sites.
Petrobangla supplies around 0.8 trillion cubic feet of gas a year to the national grid against a demand for more than one trillion cubic feet.
Experts warned that the dependence on fuel oil, particularly for electricity generation, would fuel inflation because of rising cost of industrial and agricultural inputs.
At least 1,900 mmcfd gas will be needed in 2013 to produce more than 8,800mw power for the national grid. This electricity will cost about Tk 2.50 a kilowatt-hour (unit) on average considering the gas price at Tk 79 per thousand cubic feet.
The need for gas for grid-feeding power plants will be 2,500mmcfd to produce nearly 1,300mw of power by 2018.
But at present, gas supply shortage in affecting production of fertiliser and power.
Petrobangla kept gas supply suspended to the fertiliser factories during boro irrigation and summer in last two years in order to raise the supply to the power plants.
In recent years, the Power Development Board has not been able to produce low-cost electricity in different plants with a combined capacity of about 1,000mw due to shortage of gas.
The government had to import up to five lakh tonnes of urea in addition in last two years as fertiliser factoring suspended production for 4-6 months.
Petrobangla has been is trying to tackle the situation by suspending new gas connections to the industries, households, CNG filling stations and other commercial users since 2010.
In 2011, the government started giving gas connections only to the ‘priority’ industries determined by a high-powered committee headed by the prime minister’s energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury.
The government’s planned power projects based on imported coal have made no significant progress mainly due to lack of confidence of private entrepreneurs and also lack of infrastructure for import and transportation of coal.
PDB planned to go for a re-tender to set up six imported coal-fired power plants with a combined generation capacity of up to 3,000mw as private entrepreneurs did not respond to the first tender.
Entrepreneurs are yet to start development work for setting up of three imported coal-fired commercial plants of 1,000mw capacity even after they got approval from the authorities one year back.
The government’s three more planned projects of 1,320mw capacity each are also facing uncertainty of supply of imported coal.
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