Engr. Khondkar Abdus Saleque:
Four years of Grand Alliance Government rule in Bangladesh has failed to bring meaningful changes in the power and energy sectors of Bangladesh as crisis is continuing and compounding. Power and energy crisis is seriously impacting on economic growth and development. Repeated increase of power and energy tariff is causing immense sufferings for end users. Though the power generation capacity and gas production significantly increased yet these failed to cope up with growth of demand as the economy continued to grow at steady pace of 6% plus. About 1.5 % power demand grows for every 1% growth of GDP. Hence it required about 8- 9% growth of power generation every year to contain steady GDP growth. Government has so far failed to manage demand supply critical balance professionally and consequently crisis is impacting adversely economic growth. Sustained energy crisis continues to overshadow milestone achievements of the government in other sectors. Why a democratic government earning landslide popular mandate failed in the most critical area? Who are responsible for this?
Neutral objective assessment of the performances of the present grand alliance government in energy & power sector over the last four years of the current term would evidence of mixed successes. One would map different initiatives for increasing power generation, diversifying fuel mix for power, increasing gas production, and stabilizing transmission and distribution of power and gas from sources to demand centers. Some of these met with success and some failed. But there have been major failures in creation of cost efficient fuel supply options, ensuring energy conservation, controlling the system losses and ensuring energy efficiency. Consequently there have been bare minimum impacts on national economy of almost doubling the effective power generation capacity from 3500 MW to 6350 MW per day and increasing gas production from 1750MMCFD – 2287 MMCFD. Government could to some extent successfully address the massive demand supply imbalance of power grid through introduction of controversial imported liquid fuel based high priced rental power plants option. But to contain the consequent huge subsidy impacts of absorbing high import cost of liquid fuel from volatile international market government had to inevitably adjust power and fuel prices in several steps much to the discomfort of all end users. Government also failed to advance appreciably the implementation of major traditional fuel dependent base load major power plants for various reasons ranging from protracted tendering processes, beauracratic and political interferences in tendering and evaluation processes, imbedded corruption and inefficient project management. Government also failed to resolve the impasse of mining substantial untapped own coal resources. Adoption of under cooked import strategies of high priced LNG and coal without bothering about enabling infrastructure also created messy situation in power and energy sector. The situation is emerging towards huge deficit of power in national power grid in the ensuing irrigation season and massive gas supply shortage for all end users all over gas grid. A democratic government despite of initiating several milestone initiatives in energy and power sectors cannot derive credible returns of its efforts. Crisis continues to compound though power generation and gas production significantly increased over the last four years. Government is now confronted with huge challenges of turning the tide in the reaming period of its term to restore confidence of the electorate.
Fuel Mix & Energy Pricing:
For a developing country like Bangladesh the major challenge in the power sector lies in adopting the appropriate fuel mix and rational power and energy pricing. Bangladesh until recently used to rely almost exclusively on indigenous natural gas for power generation. Kaptai Hydro Electricity Generation, Barapukuria Coal fired power generation and some minor diesel and furnace oil based plants were other options. Price of power and gas in Bangladesh were among the cheapest of the world. The pricing was not the economic pricing and had no rationale for these. Bangladesh was blessed with cheap gas price as most of the major gas resources were almost free as the founding father of the nation Bangabandhu through his visionary initiatives could take over major gas resources at nominal price from Shell BV after independence. Taking advantage of very cheap power and gas price small, medium and large energy inefficient industries mushroomed around energy constrained corridors in greater Dhaka and Chittagong region. These unbalanced growth stressed the gas production and transmission systems beyond the design limits. Moreover the advent of IOCs in the upstream created price imbalance of gas. State owned gas companies failed to generate enough revenue to reinvest in expansion of capacity. Production and transmission capacity in national gas grid became supersaturated.
There were various talks and studies for economic pricing of gas and power. There were works on Power System Master Plan and Gas System Master Plan. But successive governments for narrow political vision did not address the energy and power pricing. Governments for lack of vision and poor governance also failed to manage balanced expansion and growth of power and energy sector infrastructures. Consequently demand grew exponentially but neither power generation nor production and supply of gas expanded simultaneously. In 2009 when present government took over state power it inherited a dysfunctional power and energy sector reeling under 3000 MW power deficit and 300 MMCFD gas shortage . It also inherited massive system losses [mostly theft and pilferage] in the power and energy sector. The managerial capacity of power and energy sectors also eroded as successive government completely politicized the sectors victimizing competent professionals for political reasons. The challenges of the present government were well cut out. It had to address the challenges of depleting gas resources , rationally diversify fuel mix and adjust power and energy pricing rationally to make these market oriented . Government had very little choice but to opt for imported liquid fuel based short term rental power generation options side by side to initiating other traditional short, medium and long term power generation initiatives. In four years government could increase power generation by 2850 MW out of which about 1800 MW came from expensive liquid fuel based rental power plants. There is no doubt that this additional electricity made significant contribution to national economy and economy remained functional. But the cost that the nation paid for the expensive power was phenomenal. The planning and implementation of mid and long term gas and coal based power generation initiatives failed to advance appreciably causing the nation to bear the burden of expensive power generation through rental power plants beyond the conceived tenure of 3-5 years. Most of the contingency rental power plants were due to retire by now. But the desperate government cannot come out of these essential evils as it has failed to create reliable alternatives. Moreover, to offset impacts of high priced power, generation options government had to upward revise and adjust power and energy pricing on several small installments. People would have welcomed this if they could get reliable and assured supply of power and energy in exchange. But as it is not the case government actions has drawn bitter criticism from all around. Increased power and fuel prices have increased cost of living and costs of doing business.
Poor Visions & Wrong Perceptions:
As has been discussed very often LNG import initiative and plans to set up large imported coal based power plants in the socio economic environment of Bangladesh were short sighted poor visions. For associated techno economic reasons Bangladesh is neither in a position now and nor will be in near future to successfully implement LNG import or coal import for power generation . The most feasible power generation option still remains exploration and exploitation of own coal. The major failure of the present government lies in not initiating appropriate actions in mining own coal and setting up of mine mouth coal based power plants. A vested quarter with evil motives is still misguiding policy makers. All impacts of coal mining including management of surface and subsurface water of mined area have proven scientific and well rehearsed demonstrable technology. Government has already got several studies of accredited international consultants.
Energy Advisor to Prime Minister recently talked about fresh ongoing study of subsurface water management. Who are the Bangladesh experts for conducting study of mine water management? Why Government could not rely on studies conducted by internationally accredited consultants? Nation is paying heavy price for poor visions and wrong perceptions of white collared non professional advisory groups. In four years there has been no meaningful progress of LNG or coal import initiatives. THERE HAS BEEN NO PROGRESS ON EXPLORATION AND EXPLOITATION OF OWN COAL, We expect that government would soon realize the reality and take positive rational decision of coal mining abandoning unrealistic initiatives. Right initiative at the beginning of the present term of the government could create a situation of about 2000 MW mine mouth own coal based power generation at Barapukuria and Phulabri.
Gas Sector in Total Mess:
Gas sector is in total mess. Huge deficit in national gas grid has created crisis for all end users. No major gas consumer was given connection over the last four years. Yet serious imbalance has been created in demand and supply.The performance of gas sector indicating increase of production capacity from 1750 MMCFD to 2285 MMCFD is claimed as major success by Petrobangla. About 90% of this capacity increase came from Chevron owned Bibiyana and Jalalabad Gas fields for which there has been very little credit or contribution of Petrobangla. The capacity enhancement initiatives of Bibiyana Gas Field was initiated by Care Taker Government .The only capacity enhancement of Gas Transmission also effected through Chevron installing a Gas pipeline compressor at Muchai Manifold Station owned and operated by GTCL. Apart from that BAPEX made some contributions in bringing two marginal gas fields Semutang and Sundalpoor into operation and adding some development wells in other under operation gas fields.. BAPEX acquiring 3D Seismic capability is a milestone achievement. But failure of Petrobangla Gas companies in accomplishing production enhancement and transmission capacity enhancement projects on time have delivered a massive blow to gas security and energy security. PETROBANGLA miserably failed to implement fast track gas fields development project for wrong strategy and poor management. The failure in four years of the fast track gas production enhancement initiative is an evidence of incompetence. Petrobangla top management after every interpretation of 3 D seismic surveys of BAPEX hyped of major gas discovery and oil discovery. Experts and critics termed these as reinventing of wheels and acts of immaturity. Real petroleum or reservoir engineering experts cannot talk about discovery of gas or oil without drilling of exploratory wells and production testing. No seismic survey can conclude any gas or oil discovery. Petrobangla unprofessionally hyped gas discovery and even indicated possible extent of additional reserve. Now that much hyped Sunetra gas prospect evidencing dry hole and other prospects not showing encouraging signs have triggered frustrations. People will now question about resource mapping of RASHIDPOOR, TITAS, HARIPOOR AND KOILLASTILLA GAS FIELDS.
Petrobangla companies have also failed to advance major gas transmission infrastructure implementation. Failure of ill conceived LNG import initiative will prolong gas crisis of CHITTAGONG region. The failure of Petrobangla to increase gas production to required extent, expand transmission capacity and mange resources professionally have created all round crisis in the energy and power sectors. Substantial power generation capacity is forced to remain idle , urea fertilizer production suffers every now and then, gas supply to all industrial, commercial users suffer from low pressure and poor quality , gas supply to CNG fuelling stations require rationing, all new gas connections require to remain suspended. According to many gas sector top management has miserably failed to create dynamism in the sector and this has impacted upon the overall performance of the power and energy sector. Many opine that clash of personalities among policy makers of energy sector is one of reason for the poor performance of Petrobangla and its companies. Adopting unrealistic LNG import initiative, relying on incompetent politically favored non performing senior executives, adopting some unnecessary gas transmission infrastructures like Bibiyana – Dhanua pipeline, delay in major projects implementation like Gas Pipeline Compressor stations of GTCL have led to the present abysmal performance of the gas sector.
Year 2103 must see some major achievement of gas sector if the energy sector has to turn around. Russian Energy Giant GAZPROM may complete drilling of 10 production wells < BAPEX may also complete drilling of some production wells .By end 2013 about 250-300 MMCFD additional gas should come on stream. But how this gas will be transmitted at distributed will remain a huge challenge. There is possibility of Bakhrabad –Shiddhirganj pipeline to get completed. It can transport about 300 MMCFD gas for a section of present and additional gas demand in the greater Dhaka Region. Completion of Ashuganj Pipeline compressor station will restore gas transmission capacity of Northern corridor of transmission hub. But the construction of a controversial unnecessary pipeline from Bibiyana – Dhanua pipeline may be stuck in quick sand as early monsoon rain in March or April may cause inundation of ROW from flash flooding. We always opined that such a massive investment in a huge challenging project should have been further reviewed as additional gas resources are yet to be confirmed for ensuring capacity gas supply through this pipeline over the design life of the project. Why not Rashidpoor –Ashuganj loop line extended to Koillashtilla instead?
Present government will find it truly embarrassing if people have to continue suffering from power crisis and gas crisis for most of the time in 2013. The talk talking unworthy policy makers and politically favored top executives of energy and power companies must be made accountable for all the lapses and failures. Many of the milestone ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE OVERSHADOWED FOR THE FAILURES IN THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR.