Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) has issued a demand letter for additional gas supply as irrigation season is going to start from the next week.
But there is no visible progress of increased gas supply. If the power sector takes the lion share of gas on priority basis, it will affect the other consumers. Particularly the domestic consumers will face gas shortage.
As the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is increasing, the supply of gas for households will decrease further. As a result, the sufferings of the people will increase.
Bangladesh Oil, Gas and Mineral Corporation, shortly Petrobangla, has been struggling to meet increasing demand of gas.
Currently, the country-wide demand of gas is 3,700 million cubic feet a day, while the supply is 3,000 to 3,100 million cubic feet during normal condition, Petrobangla officials say.
Since 25 October 2020, daily gas supply has decreased by 300 million cubic feet. On Tuesday, gas supply was 2,760 million cubic feet.
BPDB officials say that the estimated power generation is set at 14,000 megawatt for the upcoming season of irrigation. Last year, the target was 11,977 megawatt.
To meet the target of this year, some 1,550 million cubic feet of gas will require for power generation for irrigation. On Tuesday, BPDB received only 800 million cubic feet of gas.
In case of gas shortage, BPDB would require to spend more money to purchase power from the diesel-fired power plants.
The ministry of power energy and mineral resources has already directed Petrobangla to increase gas supply to the power plants.
Rationing in gas supply
A Petrobangla officer said that reduction in LPG import has affected the overall gas supply.
State-run Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited (RPGCL) purchases LPG on regular basis under a long-term agreement with the suppliers from Oman and Qatar. Besides, RPGCL purchase LPG from spot markets.
Due to a price hike in international LPG market, RPGCL cancelled two purchase orders in November and December.
As the LPG price slightly falls, the authorities concerned have started LPG purchase procedures again.
However, until the gas supply increases, consumers would get the fuel on rationing basis.
Preferring not to be named, a RPGCL officer told Prothom Alo that last year the maximum supply of LPG was 700 million cubic feet a day. Currently, the daily supply falls to 400 million cubic feet.
Citing a recent development in discussion with the suppliers from Oman and Qatar, the officer said that from next week RPGCL would be able to supply 60 million cubic feet of LPG a day and it would grow to 500 million cubic feet from March.
The RPGCL is now on the move to collect more LPG from the spot markets so that 700 million cubic feet of LPG could be supplied daily.
Petrobangla director (operation and mines) Ali Md Al Mamun expressed his hope about an improvement of gas supply within the shortest possible time.
Domestic consumers will face gas shortage
Laiju Begum, a housewife of Mohammadpur, recently said that gas pressure at stove starts to fall from morning. “Since the last three months, I cannot cook during the first half of the day because of acute gas shortage. The situation has not changed much,” she said.
Around 11 per cent of people in the country consume natural gas for their cooking. Dhaka dwellers take the lion share of domestic gas supply.
According to Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company, the lone state-run gas supply authority in Dhaka, some 2,875,000 consumers are currently supplied gas. Among them, 2,855,000 are domestic consumers.
Titas can supply 1720 million cubic feet of gas (as of Tuesday) against the daily demand of 2,000 million cubic feet.
One senior officer of Titas hinted that demand for gas would increase more in the summer. In the coming March, domestic consumers would face acute gas shortage, the official added.
Price of LPG increases
For household cooking, around 3.8 million people use LPG. The consumers are now facing the trouble most as there is no control over LPG price in retail market. Manikganj resident Atiqul Islam said he has to use LPG because of low pressure in the gas supply line of Titas.
But he gets no relief as the price of LPG cylinder increases abnormally. Price of a 12kg LPG cylinder varies from Tk 1,100 to Tk 1,200 as there are a number of private companies retailing LPG. Last month, price of the cylinder varied from Tk 950 to Tk 1,050.
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) hosted a public hearing on 14 January to fix retail price of LPG. Despite three weeks has been elapsed, BERC is yet to deliver any decision.
LPG traders said the hike in international price has influenced the retail market.
According to S&P Global website, price of propane and butane–two composites of LPG, has been on the rise since the last couple of months.
Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) president Ghulam Rahman told Prothom Alo that the government should take pro-consumer steps on practical ground.
“BERC should fix the retail price of LPG soon so that consumers' rights and traders’ interest are ensured,” he said.
*This report appeared in Prothom Alo print and online edition, and has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman