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12 March, 2019 11:19:45 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 12 March, 2019 11:20:24 AM

Prudent use of gas is essential

The concerned authorities have to be careful and sincere to use appropriate gas saving technologies in the existing industrial and household units
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
Prudent use of gas is essential

Bangladesh is an overpopulated agrarian economy. There is no scope for further absorption of human resources in the agriculture sector. Moreover, with the gradual introduction of modern technology such as power tillers, threshers and harvesters etcetera in agriculture, already existing agricultural workers are losing work in this sector. New workers are coming in the job market at a growing rate in the face of 1.8 per cent growth rate of the 160 million already existing population. So industrialization of the economy is essential to provide work to the ever growing workforce. As a result efforts are being made to industrialise the economy.
Industrialisation needs the availability of adequate supply of energy resources. The available energy resources of Bangladesh are natural gas and coal. The reserve and the supply of gas available in the mainland are on the verge of being exhausted. The possibility of the availability or discovery of new gas reserves in the mainland is also very meagre. Major source of our primary energy is natural gas. It is considered as one of the driving forces of the economy of our country as three-fourths of the total commercial energy is provided by natural gas. As many as 23 gas fields have been discovered since 1955 when the first gas field was found in Sylhet. At the same time, the propaganda about exaggerated gas reserve created a delusion among the people and ultimately hindered economic use and conservation of the valuable resource.

Many of the modern industries built so far in Bangladesh depend heavily on natural gas. For that reason it has become urgent for Bangladesh to use mainland gas resources carefully, cautiously and in a planned way until it can explore and discover gas in the Bay of Bengal. According to a survey conducted by the country’s largest Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company the household sector uses per day 12 per cent amounting to 270 MCF (Million cubic feet) of total production of gas i.e. 2.25 BCF (Billion cubic feet) per day out of total reserve of extractable gas (proven and probable) – 20.5 TCF (Trillion Cubic feet). It has been opined that if old boilers of the existing industrial units are transformed by new technology boilers 150 MCF of gas per day can be saved. The cost of such transformation of boilers is estimated to be not that much high. Moreover, if the household gas burners are made of improved technology and the gas lines from the roads to the kitchens are maintained properly then another 100 MCF of gas can be saved daily.

So we see that in the process of distribution of gas in the Titas area alone the wastage of gas amounts to 250 MCF per day. It means that if gas wastages can be controlled or stopped in the Titas area alone another equal number of household consumer’s demand for gas in the whole of country can be met. However, the Titas has taken initiatives to encourage the use of improved technology gas burners in the household level and to convert the industrial gas boilers to the new technology based ones in the industrial level but the response is not encouraging. Same is the picture of wastage of gas in the regions beyond the Titas area.

The only hope remains about the availability of gas is the Bangladesh offshore territorial area of the Bay. Whether this hope will at all be materialised depends on the availability or discovery of new gas field(s) in the sea.  The coal reserve of Bangladesh is more or less satisfactory. But the question is how far it will be wise and profitable to exploit this fuel resource in a densely populated agrarian fertile country like Bangladesh. Moreover, the country lacks its own technology required to extract this energy resource. The government is not seriously thinking of tapping coal energy lest the lion share of the profit goes into the pocket of foreigners that will extract Bangladeshi coal.

Under these circumstances, the experts opine a total stop of additional or new household gas supply; to close the supply of gas to the CNG filling stations and the use of gas in the production of chemical fertilizers. And taking of some other preventive measures for ensuring uninterrupted gas supply to the country’s gas based essential industrial units.

The government has taken a wide scale master plan to accelerate the development of electricity sector on a priority basis to meet the country’s gradually growing energy demand. Moreover, aiming at mutual cooperation on a regional basis for the production of electricity Bangladesh has come to an understanding with Nepal, Bhutan and India. Nevertheless, it is an undeniable fact that there lies a special importance in developing Bangladesh’s own energy sector. As a result the country needs to make efforts to explore offshore gas resource.

Currently there are so many gas dependent industries in the country. New industrial investments as per demand are difficult in the country at the moment in the face of sure scarcity of gas in comparison to industrial demand. Under such circumstances, it is possible to a large extent to meet the country’s current gas crisis by drastically reducing or totally eradicating with sincerity the ongoing misuses and wastages of gas. The amount of misuse of gas, as mentioned above, is so vast and unimaginable countywide that people do not even get required gas of necessary pressure for the already connected household burners in many urban areas including the capital city of Dhaka.   

For economic development that we need first and foremost in the modern world is investment and growth of production and productive resources. Gas is now being used as a basis of investments, productions and economic growth in Bangladesh. Nevertheless, per capita consumption of energy in Bangladesh is on an average 160 kgoe (Kilogram oil equivalent) while it is 530 kgoe in India, 510 kgoe in Pakistan, 340 kgoe in Nepal and 470 kgoe in Sri Lanka. The average consumption in Asia is 640 kgoe. It is evident that per capita average consumption of energy in Bangladesh is significantly lower than the average of Asia. Even it is lower than those of South Asian countries.

In recent times per capita energy consumption has been used as an indicator to determine the living standard and stage of development of a country. At present, from 79 wells of the existing 17 gas fields, only 730 BCF gas is being supplied against the average annual demand of 912 BCF. As a result, there exists a shortage of 182 BCF of gas annually. If the present supply of 2.25 BCF per day remains unchanged then daily shortage may stand at 1.41 BCF. Hence, it is not possible to meet this shortage with the existing reserves. If the reserve capacity does not enhance according to the estimation of the Gas Sector Master Plan, then the difference between demand and supply that we observed after 2011 would be huge.

To meet the existing as well as future demand, discovering new gas fields and enhancing gas reserve by re-assessing the present reserve of the existing gas fields is the best approach. In addition to these, attempts should be made for increasing the supply by drilling good number of wells. However, implementing these initiatives needs huge investment and a high level of technical, technological and professional expertise. Exploring and discovering oil and gas is a capital intensive and risky investment. It can be seen from various reports that for discovering a gas field, it needs an investment of about Taka 7 billion, whereas the rate of success is only 20-25 per cent.

So, although gas fields may exist in developing Bangladesh, it is not possible for it to invest such a huge amount for exploring and discovering those gas fields.

Therefore, the concerned authorities have to be careful and sincere to use appropriate gas saving technologies in the existing industrial and household units. Moreover, the personnel engaged and/or employed in the gas sector needs to be directed so that they become honest, sincere, transparent and efficient in handling this vital sector of the economy. At the same time, indigenous capability needs to be developed in exploring and extracting gas and coal at least within the country. Practical and efficient planning mechanism needs also to be developed in this regard.                                         

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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