Bangladesh PM Hasina Grilled Energy Sector Management
Engr. Khondkar A Saleque
Tuesday, 08.10.2010, 07:52am (GMT)
“What you said in April you are repeating the same in August. Where is the progress? Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the fourth meeting with Power and energy sector officials since assuming office on her second term. She incidentally is also in charge of the ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources. True the mahajote government inherited a crisis struck power and energy sector. But in 20 months of her governments 60 month tenure situation has not improved at all. PM expressed her concern about the continued abysmal performance of the sector. She suggested that required projects works must be expedited even if such relaxations are required to be made to improve the situation. People must not be made to suffer any more. PM spent time in Energy N Ministry with Energy Advisors, State minister of Energy, Senior officials of ministry , power and energy company senior officials.
Government started with a massive election pledge and promise to restore balance to unbalance energy demand supply situation. US educated controversial beauracrat was preferred over senior party politicians to look after the most important sector as advisor. Power and energy sector senior management were changed to set up party favored professionals. Mega plans were thrown up to fool the nation in the wake of serious emerging energy crisis. People had sympathy in 2009 as it realized the depth and diversity of the crisis and appreciated the handicap of the new government in confronting and overcoming the crisis.
Care taker government signed contracts for few contingency power plants.Some of these came into operation. But in 20 months new government failed t initial any contract for major base load power plants.It claims that about 800MEW new power has been added since the government assumed office but where is the power gone? The effective national generation was 3800MW when government took over in 2009.Present generation is slightly more than that.There may be new generation added. But some existing old plants must have retired by now.Moreover gas crisis makes about 800MW available capacity unutilized. For overhauling, cannibalization about 800 MW power generation also remains out of use.Against all these power demand remains about 6000MW.With about 2000MW deficit power sector is suffering the most severe crisis in the history of Bangladesh.
In the back drop of above our tall talking power and energy sector policy makers continues to give lip service that by 2012 Bangladesh would become load shedding free .By 2012 LNG will be imported to ease diabolic energy crisis in Chittagong. By 2015 the country will be flooded with power and gas. The management which in 20 months failed to show any significant progress cannot do in 20 years. PM Hasina is unnecessarily persisting with the failed management. Her present sector management can do nothing better. Why she is not taking account from smart advisor about gains of high sounding road shows? What happened to coal mining? What happened to offshore gas exploration?
The only notable action is the signing of several contracts for imported liquid fuel based contingency plants. Some of these are on track but most have already fallen behind schedule. These expensive plants cannot be relied for longer time generation.Bangladesh can ill afford to pay huge subsidy for a long time. But no major base load power plant contract could be signed. Even if any such contract is signed now the financial closure by developers may take 6-9 months .In that situation no major base load power plants may come into operation within the remaining period of the present government. The power sector will virtually become captive to contingency plants.
Government signed agreement with India for grid connectivity and power import from India. But the power trading tariff has not been decided yet,If works are done aggressively by 2013 250MW power may come into national grid. By then the deficit may widen further from the present 2000MW.Imported power will meet only a minor percent of the deficit.
Government has a plan to set up two large coal fired plant at Khulna and Chittagong. Talks between NTPC India and PDB Bangladesh have reached stalemate stage. India wants absolute control of the management and operation of the power plants. Can sovereign Bangladesh allow any foreign government owned entity does that? Moreover from techno economic point of view power plants based on imported coal is not feasible in Bangladesh for several reasons. Lack of enabling infrastructure for coal import, costs , poor domestic power tariff are among those. So coal power plants based on imported coal is unrealistic dream in near terms.
Government planners continue to show unrealistic dreams of lNG import by 2012. It will require huge investments and significant time as well as very strong project management to make LNG dream come true. The target 2012 is impossible. At least two years will be required to construct sub pipeline even. Floating LNG terminal, offshore pipeline, high cost LNG from competitive market will make this dream realization impossible to come true in 28 months as being told now. But unfortunately government still believes in such fairly tales.
The most comical matter came up when during last meeting gas sector management talked about 2400MMCFD new gas production by 2015. In 20Months the only addition being some additional gas from Chevron operated Bibiyana gas field. Present government has no credit for it. The gas field development started from 4 party alliance government and completed during care taker government. Rather present government failed actions to select Pipeline compressors stations so far has impeded evacuation of stranded gas from Sylhet region. Government also entered into controversy permitting upstream operator Chevron build a mid stream pipeline compressor station at Muchai Rashid poor. In Titas and Habiganj gas fields the workovers have only restored earlier production capacity. Gas production from Beanibazar, Rashidpoor, Shangu have depleted during the tenure of this government. Government has failed to carry out routine maintenance of transmission pipeline. Rather attempts to evacuate additional gas through capacity saturated pipeline have triggered low pressure in the system. Gas system management has become pain the neck for the government .Still shameless Petrobangla talk big. Ridiculous.
Re-exploration at Sreekail, development of Semutang remains outstanding. Work over of Meghna, development of Salda may add some gas. But we have no reason to become optimistic about Sundalpoor or Kapasia exploration as yet. Wonder why Bangladesh is not resolving disputes with NIKO to bring Feni and Chatak into full operation and explore Tenratilla soon?
Cairn/Santos JV is waiting anxiously with everything ready to commence drilling at Shangu with a plan to add about 50MMCFD by April 2-11. But the delay government decision is about to postpone the drilling program. Why beauracracy stagnates positive initiatives? Is there any other hidden reason for this? We must realize the overall economic impact of additional 50MMCFD additional gas to Chittagong market .No other option can do that.
Why it takes so long to approve coal policy? Why coal policy is at all required for starting mining? There must be foul play here also. Why PM can not allocate time to sit with who matters and finalize coal mining strategy? All realted stakeholders are urging government to start coal mining without delay. Where is the g hesitation of a democratic government to explore and exploit own resources in the most economic way?
PM Hasina can lambast her officials. She also cannot deny her own failures here as well. Her advisor and her state minister, her secretaries and sector corporation chives are taking nation for a ride. The patience of the nation has reached flash point. There may be explosion any time.PM must set dateline and milestones. There must be punishment for failures. Showing red eyes to shameless people is not enough. Time is fast running out. Only energy crisis may be enough to draw curtain for this government much earlier than any one expect. Mining of coal must start soon. Actions to set up mine mouth coal plant , exploration for petroleum at onshore and offshore must not be delayed. No major investor will invest in energy sector until issues with present investors are resolved.