Overall, the gas crisis hits every sector hard. Many people in Dhaka have been cooking at night or early in the morning while some have been buying Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).
They are being forced to buy LPG cylinders while they are paying bills for pipeline gas.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Kamrunnesa, a resident at Mohammadpur in Dhaka said, “For the last few days I could not light the stove (due to lack of gas). The gas is available at night and early in the morning. I have been using LPG as an alternative fuel.”
“The LPG cylinder also costs more than the price the government has fixed,” she added.
LNG supply shrinks
The demand of gas in the country is met in two ways – production in local gas fields and imported LNG. Local gas fields used to supply 2.3 billion cubic feet gas every day whereas the amount of imported LNG was 700-750 million cubic feet. Currently the LNG import has declined to 480 million cubic feet every day.
The import-dependent policy was the wrong one and now we have to pay the price. It’s our own making
The problem is Bangladesh is unable to buy sufficient LNG from international market. The price has risen sharply since the war between Russia and Ukraine as European countries, which were dependent on Russian gas and oil, have been buying LNG from spot market.
The Bangladesh government has stopped buying LNG from spot market as the price has gone beyond the country’s capacity.
Sources from Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Limited (RPGCL), the company that imports LNG in the country, said at every month five LNG cargoes have been bringing gas to the country from Oman and Qatar under a long-term agreement at US$ 15 per unit. The rate was below US$ 10 before the war.
Three ships were supposed to bring LNG from the spot market in Singapore. Currently, the LNG price at spot market is US$ 60 which was $36 in June. The price plunged to $4 last year.
Petrobangla chairman Nazmul Ahsan told Prothom Alo, “It’s true that there is some shortage in supply. The whole world is facing this crisis. The high ups of the government have been thinking about it.”
He further said, “The government might think about increasing LNG import once the price is bearable. Currently the focus is being given on the production from local sources.”
Titas complaint centres busy
Six companies supply gas taking it from Petrobangla. Officials of those companies said they are not getting the gas as per their demand. As a result, the pressure of gas in pipeline has decreased. The consumers have been complaining regularly but they cannot help with any solution.
Titas Gas is in charge of supplying gas to Dhaka and its neighbourhood. The company is getting 1.6 billion cubic feet gas everyday against its demand of 1.8 to 1.9 billion cubic feet. As a result they are not being able to provide gas to the consumers. The consumers have also been making phone calls at the company’s complaint centre.
Titas Gas sources said complaints are being filed from almost all areas of Dhaka while the most are coming from Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Paikpara, Rampura, Jatrabari, Old Dhaka, Kalyanpur and Uttara.
Harunur Rashid Mollah, managing director of Titas, told Prothom Alo that such a situation would persist until the situation improves.
The situation in power and fertilizer sectors
Petrobangla’s report on demand and supply of gas said only 1.6 billion cft gas could be supplied while the demand was 2.25 billion cft on Monday. The supply to fertilizer factories was 160 million cft while the demand was 320 million cft on the same day.
CNG stations which supply gas to vehicles remain shut for five hours a day (from 6:00pm to 11:00pm). The CNG stations do not avail of gas in remaining hours. Businessmen of this sector said 15 PSI (a unit of gas pressure measurement) is considered normal pressure and even 10 PSI does the work. But most of the time for the last two months, they complained that they do not get more than 2-3 PSI during the day.
Farhan Noor, general secretary of CNG Filing Station Owners Association, told Prothom Alo that the pressure of gas remains very low during the day. While the pressure increases after 12 at night, there were no customers at that time.
Production decreases in industries
Entrepreneurs are struggling to keep up their factories in Narayanganj, Munshiganj and Gazipur. Factories in Gazipur have to remain completely shut from 5 in the afternoon to 5 in the morning. Gas cannot be availed during the day in Narayanganj, and production work has to be run at night.
Bangladesh Textile Mills Association’s (BTMA) president Mohammad Ali told Prothom Alo that factories had to be kept shut for 6 hours in some places and 12 hours in some other places. The pressure of gas is low for the remaining time. As a result, production decreased by 50 per cent.
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) has conducted a survey on 64 factories in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur to get insight of gas supply and garments production situation. The survey showed that the factories on average got only 1.8 gas pressure, resulting in a slush of production by 40 to 50 per cent.
Adviser to the prime minister for power, energy and mineral resources Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury held a meeting with business leaders at the prime minister’s office on Monday. Petrobangla chairman and Tatas Gas’ managing director were also present at the meeting.
Sources said the business leaders raised the issue of decline in production due to decreased gas pressure. But they did not get any assurance about the sudden change of the situation. The gas supply in industries can increase only if the demand decreases in winter season.
BKMEA executive president Mohammad Hatem told Prothom Alo that the pressure of gas remains almost zero in Narayanganj from 7 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon and in the worst case till 11 in the evening, resulting in slashed production at that time.
‘It’s our own making’
It is alleged that the government has banked on imports instead of focusing on exploration and extraction. This import dependency has created the problem. 60 per cent of the local gas production is supplied by Chevron.
Informed sources think over-dependency on a single company might prove detrimental. They said Petrobangla has now jumped into an effort to increase production from local gas fields, which they should have done earlier.
Geologist Badrul Imam told Prothom Alo that Europe had increased competition in LNG market. The prices may increase further and there is no chance of improvement in the situation for the time being. The government has finally intensified efforts to increase gas production from local gas fields, which they should have started five years ago. But there is no chance to avail gas overnight.
"The import-dependent policy was the wrong one and now we have to pay the price. It’s our own making," he added.
*The report, originally published in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo has been rewritten by Shameem Reza and Galib Ashraf