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Dhaka Sunday,  Apr 14, 2024

Bangladesh struggles to arrange gas supply for new gas-fired power plants

Azizur Rahman

Bangladesh is struggling to arrange sufficient gas supply for half a dozen new gas-fired power plants with total generation capacity of around 3,510 MW due to heavy government subsidies and slow-moving reforms, according to project operators and market participants.

Three new plants in the private sector are already in early stages of launch, while another three in the public sector will be ready by the end of 2024, Khandekar Mokammel Hossain, an executive in the company affairs division of state-run Bangladesh Power Development Board, or BPDB, told S&P Global.

State-run oil and gas company Petrobangla has a “commitment” to supply natural gas to all the power plants, which will collectively require around 600 MMcf/d at full capacity, he said. To put this into context, each of Bangladesh’s two floating storage and regasification unit-based LNG import terminals can supply around 500 MMcf/d of gas.

The power plants that have completed construction are – Unique Meghnaghat Power’s 584-MW plant, the 583-MW Summit Meghnaghat-II and the 718-MW power plant jointly owned by India’s Reliance Power and Japan’s JERA. These three plants need around 325 MMcf/d of gas at full capacity, Hossain said.

He said BPDB, which is the country’s main electricity purchasing utility, has power purchase agreements with these plants and Petrobangla has assured gas supply.

The three public sector gas-fired power plants nearing completion are the 800-MW Rupsha combined cycle power plant, 416-MW Ghorashal Repowering Unit 3 and 409-MW Ghorashal Repowering Unit 4. These three plants owned by state power entities will require around 275 MMcf/d of gas.

The construction of Ghorashal’s Unit 3 and Unit 4 will be completed by September, chief engineer Mohammad Zohurul Islam said, but he was doubtful of sufficient gas supply and recommended rationing to ensure the plants remain operational.

Gas shortage

Bangladesh had total installed power generation capacity of around 25 GW at the end of 2023, out of which around 11.5 GW, or 45%-46%, was gas-fueled, most of which was either operating below capacity or shut.

At the end of February, Bangladesh was supplying around 893 MMcf/d of gas to its gas-fired power plants, which was slightly over one-third of their aggregated demand of around 2.316 Bcf/d, according to Petrobangla data.

The new gas plants are starting up at a time when around three dozen small- to medium-sized plants of 3,042 MW capacity, which is more than a third of the total gas fired capacity, are still shut due to gas shortages, according to BPDB data as on Feb. 27.

This has raised questions about how the large volume of new gas supply will be arranged and whether the existing plants will continue to face shortages.

Owners of the new plants are lobbying the government and Petrobangla for gas supply, Petrobangla’s director for operations and mines Mohammad Kamruzzaman Khan told S&P Global Feb. 28.

Khan said there is already intense competition among existing plants for Petrobangla’s gas but it has agreed to supply gas to the new power plants upon availability. “We make allocations of gas for different gas-guzzling consumers on the basis of gas availability,” he said, when asked whether Petrobangla will be able to meet supply commitments.

Until mid-March, Petrobangla has allocations to provide up to 900 MMcf/d of gas to power plants, which can rise to 1.20 Bcf/d next summer, Khan said. The 300 MMcf/d increase in gas allocation means that all the new gas-fired power plants will be operational when they finish construction, despite the around three dozen gas-fired plants shut due to the gas crisis, Khan clarified.

Petrobangla also recently issued a spot LNG tender for five LNG cargoes for delivery in April, which is one of their highest monthly spot procurements so far.

“The power plant owners inked deals and constructed the power plants knowing all the conditions in Bangladesh,” Mohammad Hossain, director general of the government’s power cell, said.

He, however, hoped the country’s overall natural gas supply will increase once both its FSRUs are operational in mid-March.

Supply skepticism

The private plants claimed they will be prioritized due to higher efficiency plants.

According to official data, Petrobangla supplied around 39 MMcf/d of gas to the Summit Meghnaghat-II 583-MW power plant and around 6 MMcf/d of gas to the Unique Meghnaghat 584-MW power plant on Feb. 27 to carry out test runs.

“We have completed test runs and are now waiting for the COD [commercial operations date],” Muhammed Aziz Khan, chairman of Summit Group, which owns Summit Meghnaghat-II, said. He hoped the COD will be obtained soon.

“The Unique Meghnaghat power plant has also completed its test run,” CFO Anupam Hayat said, adding that he was confident the plant would get the necessary gas as it has higher efficiency rates.

Smitesh Vaidya, the head of contracts and commercial at Reliance Bangladesh LNG & Power, which operates the 718-MW capacity power plant, said the gas supply pipeline was recently completed and the project will commence testing and target commercial operations shortly.

“We note that the ministry, the BPDB and Petrobangla are taking positive efforts to ensure the most efficient power plants like ours will be given priority in gas supply to better utilize the LNG being procured by the country,” Smitesh said.

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