The government has not yet attained any remarkable success in the past 7-8 years in discovering new gas fields or increasing its production.
Gas production during this period has increased only in projects run by foreign companies, according to power, energy and mineral resources ministry officials.
Bangladesh now produces 2.7 billion cubic feet (cft) of natural gas a day against a demand of 4 billion cft. And 55 per cent of gas comes from the fields run by the foreign companies, they added.
M Tamim, a professor at the Petroleum Engineering department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), told Prothom Alo that the situation has gradually turned difficult.
The success of government-run organisations in the energy sector has literally been zero while the country is importing costlier energy, said Tamim, also a former adviser to a caretaker government.
Furthermore, Tamim pointed out, the gas to be imported at higher cost will be supplied to an existing inefficient and corrupt system, threatening to create a dreadful economic situation.
To get rid of the crisis, the only sustainable wayout for Bangladesh is to urgently go for necessary exploration and drilling to increase overall natural gas output, he insisted.
Energy experts said low gas pressure remains in almost every gas well of the country. So, discussions are ongoing to install wellhead compressors in the fields.
Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited (BAPEX) has undertaken an initiative to develop 108 wells between 2016 and 2021 for increasing supply of natural gas aimed at increasing production and ensuring energy security.
But, there is no possibility that gas would be added to the national grid from these wells in one or two years and this will force the government to be dependent on imported gas.
About the 108 wells, professor M Tamim said that these well are not implementable. “Well drilling is not enough for gas exploration as it requires seismic survey first,” he said adding that drilling does not necessarily mean exploring gas.
When asked if the government has any plans or initiatives to produce gas quickly, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid told Prothom Alo mentioned BAPEX’s 108 wells.
Despite spending half of the project time of five years, BAPEX could only dig eight wells that hardly contribute to the national grid.
Offshore gas exploration can be potential source of energy for Bangladesh. The country had settled maritime boundaries with Myanmar and India around five years ago. But since then, no exploration has literally been carried out to extract offshore gas resources.
Petrobangla had signed an agreement with Posco Daewoo Corporation for gas exploration in deep-sea block DS-12 in the Bay of Bengal, but the company is yet to start work on exploration.
Badrul Imam, professor of Geology department at Dhaka University, said the urgency the government should have shown in exploring natural resources in inland and offshore oil and gas fields is absent. “This leads to the path of energy imports but it is not good, rather risky,” he added.
* This report has been rewritten in English by Imam Hossain