Good news!! Discovery of new gas field at Comilla !!

The state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company (Bapex) has announced the discovery of a new gas field at Srikail in Comilla district, an area rich in hydrocarbon deposits. The gas field having a probable reserve of 300 billion cubic feet is of a medium-size one. Bapex plans to start extraction of gas from the field at a rate of 30 million cubic feet per day from December next.

The discovery, though a modest one, comes as a piece of good news under the given circumstances. The country, which was once said to be ‘floating on gas’, is now severely gas-starved. Its mills and factories, cooking stoves and filling stations are not getting the gas as per requirement. Hundreds of industrial units are either shut or operating below their installed capacity because of the shortage of gas supply. The government has been forced to suspend production in urea fertiliser factories, where natural gas is the main ingredient, to keep the gas-based power plants operational.

The plight of the real estate developers and their clients who have bought new apartments is not anyway better. The developers are finding it hard to sell hundreds of flats, constructed at substantial costs, since the government has kept suspended gas connection to residential buildings for quite sometime. The failure to provide gas has also given rise to a discriminatory situation. Many residents in Dhaka city are forced to spend a good amount of money per month on bottled gas (liquefied petroleum gas) while their neighbours are using low-cost piped gas.

The power and gas supply shortage – power shortage is directly linked to gas supply deficit – is placed at the top of the list of factors responsible for causing much of the economic woes to Bangladesh. No investor, foreign and local, would put in their money in new ventures unless and until he or she is assured of uninterrupted supply of both. However, it is not that no new investments are taking place in the country. In fact, many are still setting up new mills and factories with the expectations that the situation would improve in the coming days. The government’s plans and programmes relating to power and energy sector have made them optimistic.

Now, it remains the responsibility of the government to be true to its promises concerning the improvement of gas and power supply situation. Any improvement in gas supply situation through the discovery of greater number of gas fields in offshore or onshore areas would, undoubtedly, help ease the power situation since gas is the cheapest and the cleanest of fuels for power generation.

Offshore blocks remain the most prospective areas of finding new gas reserves for the country. The government had earlier invited an international bidding for these blocks. But the response was poor mainly for maritime boundary dispute with neighbours like Myanmar and India. Since the dispute with Myanmar is now settled, the government should float another round of international bidding for the offshore blocks without any further delay. The country can hardly waste anymore time on energy issue on which is dependent its future progress and prosperity.

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