Industries in shambles, crisis in residential areas too

Gas supply will remain suspended from 2:00pm to 8:00pm in some areas in the capital on Thursday.File photo

Power generation has decreased during the winter, leading to a decline in both gas demand and supply in the sector. Despite this, the crisis in gas supply to other sectors persists due to a reduction in liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports. 

Consumers in industrial and residential areas are suffering from the gas crisis. Owners of export-oriented industries are struggling to maintain production by purchasing alternative fuels at high prices. 

Some 1,100 million to 1,120 million cubic feet of gas was supplied daily in this sector during the times of highest demand for power which came down to 700 million cubic feet now. However, gas supply to fertiliser factories has increased. Usually, fertiliser factories are closed during any crisis. The domestic production of fertiliser has increased as its price spiked in the global market. Now, some 220 million cubic feet of gas is being supplied in the fertiliser factories.

According to sources in the Petrobangla, the daily demand of gas in the country is 3,800 million cubic feet. It is manageable to maintain everything with a supply of 3,000 million cubic feet of gas. However, it has not been possible to maintain that supply.

The production of gas in the country has fallen. LNG import has also decreased. Consequently, the daily supply of gas has dwindled to below 250 cubic feet now. The factories in Narayanganj and Munshiganj suffer the most due to lack of gas supply. According to the sources, the situation may improve by March next year.

There are two floating terminals in Maheshkhali of Cox’s Bazar to convert imported LNG for pipeline supplies. Of them, the terminal run by US-based Accelerate Energy has been closed since 1 November.  It is supposed to be opened again in the first week of January. The two terminals used to supply some 650 million cubic feet of gas per day together. Now, only the terminal run by the Summit Group is operating and supplying 500 million cubic feet gas daily.

Meanwhile, gas production in the Bibiyana Gas Field, the largest in the country in terms of production, has declined. However, an alternative system of supplying gas in cylinders to factories in areas adjacent to Dhaka has started.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Petrobangla director (additional charges, operations and mines) Md Abdul Mannan Patwari said, “The supply has declined a little due to the closure of one of the terminals. So it’s not possible right now to meet the demand for gas. Works are underway to make plans for increasing the LNG supply.

‘Industrial production dwindled by two third’

Narayanganj-based export oriented company Total Fashion Limited is not getting enough gas except Friday, the weekly holiday. Managing director (MD) of the company Hasib Uddin told Prothom Alo that their production has fallen to one third of their capacity due to the gas crisis.

The number of export oriented garment factories in Narayanganj is more than 800. The number of dying companies is more than three hundred in the area. Gas crisis is prevalent in all of these factories.

The Fair Apparels Limited in the Panchabati BSCIC industrial area has a capacity of producing 30 tonnes of clothes every day. They are producing some 10-12 tonnes at most currently.

Reliable officials at the MS Dying Limited say gas is available only for five to six hours a day. Although they have a capacity of producing 40 tonnes per day, they are producing only 15 tonnes.

Senior vice-president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) Mansur Ahmed told Prothom Alo that the pressure of gas remains good on the weekly holidays. But it reduces exponentially during the working days. Uninterrupted gas supply is needed to maintain production for the sake of export.

Factories in the Munshiganj BSSIC industrial are not getting enough supply of gas either. Visiting the area on Saturday the factories were seen using alternative fuels.

Speaking to Prothom Alo Protyasha Bread and Bicuit Factory manager Md Ariful Islam said, “We are not receiving any gas from the pipeline. So we are using diesel here.”

Asked about this, Mamunar Rashid, deputy general manager at the Narayanganj office of the Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited (TGDCL) said that gas supply hasn’t increased. Manager at the Munshiganj office of the TGDCL told Prothom Alo that the gas crisis is further intensifying each day there.

Residential consumers suffer the most

The residential consumers are suffering the most due to the lack of gas supply as they can’t cook. They are being forced to depend on LPG cylinders, electric and clay ovens.

Amena Begum, a homemaker from the Bagbari area in the Bandar upazila of Narayanganj said, “We are using an electric oven due to the lack of gas supply. We are paying an additional bill of Tk 1,200 to Tk 1,500 for electricity every month along with the bill of Titas.

Another homemaker named Maksuda Begum said gas is only available after midnight and it stays till 6:00 am at most.

Homemaker Bulbuli Begum of Uttar Islampur village in Munshiganj Sadar upazila said she cannot afford to buy LPG cylinders. So she is using a clay oven due to the lack of gas supply.

Many people in Dhaka are also not getting gas. The complaint centre of Titas Gas is receiving many calls from the residents from several areas in the city, including Mohammadpur, Mirpur, Kalabagan, Bashundhara and Old Dhaka in this regard.

Mohammadpur resident Hajera Begum said gas is only available after midnight and it’s gone within 8:00 am in the morning.

Pritam Hasan of Kaliakair Bazar area said gas supply resumes at around 1:00 am and it wanes as the day progresses. So they have to cook in the middle of the night instead of sleeping.

Alternative fuels at high prices

The gas crisis has emerged in several industrial areas in Gazipur. The companies have incurred losses for not being able to produce desired outputs. In addition to that, there are risks of getting their purchase orders cancelled for failing to deliver on time.

Managing director of the factory of Khan Brothers in Konabari of Gazipur, Hazrat Ali said there has been no improvement in the gas supply despite repeatedly pressing the demand for uninterrupted gas supply.

Deputy general manager of the Gazipur Zone of the TGDCL, Md Shahajada Farazi admitted to the complaint that gas supply is not as per the demand at the moment.

Demand for domestic gas exploration

The price of gas was raised by 80 per cent on average in January this year. Later, the government raised the price of gas by 179 per cent for industries assuring an uninterrupted gas supply.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice-president Md Nasir Uddin said although the government increased the price of gas, they are not getting an uninterrupted gas supply.

Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) senior vice-president M Shamsul Alam stressed on domestic gas exploration in this context.

He told Prothom Alo that the government raised the price of gas promising an uninterrupted supply by importing LNG. However, they are not being able to import LNG due to the existing dollar crisis. So the normal supply has become uncertain.

There is no respite from this crisis until the government stresses on gas exploration in the country. Rather, the crisis is likely to intensify further, he said.

[Prothom Alo’s staff correspondent in Gazipur and correspondents in Munshiganj and Narayanganj helped prepare this report]

*This report, appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu