Bapex’s success: Self-sufficiency in energy sector crucial

Prothom Alo file photo

Recently the government declared Zakiganj the country’s 28th gas field. It is estimated that this gas field has a reserve of 68 billion cubic-feet natural gas. The value of the extractable 48 billion cubic-feet (70 per cent of the total reserve) gas would be Tk 12.76 billion (Tk 1,276 crore). Undoubtedly this is good news among the prevailing bad news during the coronavirus pandemic.

While virtually inaugurating the Zakiganj gas field on Monday, the state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid said that the the new gas field would play a crucial role in meeting the ever increasing energy demand. He said that the state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company (Bapex) is now more equipped than ever to discover and explore new gas fields.

According the a Prothom Alo report, Bapex has discovered seven gas fields out of 16 drilled wells so far. Exploration of gas from another field halted as it was found commercially non-viable. Bapex solely has been surveying on-shore gas fields. Currently, the country meets 70 per cent of its demand for natural gas by domestic production and imports the remaining 30 per cent. Foreign companies hold 55 share of the gas production from domestic wells while the Bapex produces rest of the amount.

The government has taken several steps to increase Bapex’s capacity in the last one year. At present, the state-owned company is overseeing multiple projects. Bapex has plans to increase the volume of exploration and production of gas in next three years. We appreciate Bapex’s initiatives. At the same time, we want to say that the vested quarters serving the interests of foreign companies in exchange of commission have now emerged as barriers to strengthening Bapex.

Previously, Bapex was deprived of necessary development despite it had been showing success. Usually Bapex explores natural gas at half of the cost charged by foreign companies. For example, Russian venture Gazprom spent Tk 1.8 billion in drilling exploration wells in Bhola. On the other hand, Bapex explored the Zakiganj gas field at Tk 780 million, although the estimated cost was Tk 863 million. Implementing a project at a cost lower than the estimated amount is rare in the country.

Drilling exploration wells at Zakiganj started on 1 March and ended on 7 May. Finally the exploration found commercially extractable gas at one among four layers. After the discovery of Zakiganj gas field, now it is necessary to initiate gas extraction from there quickly. There are reserves of gas too at Zakiganj neighbourhood in India. The first producer will extract more gas.

Geologist Professor Badrul Imam rightly said that Bangladesh can produce gas at cheaper price if the government strengthens Bapex. Therefore, Bapex’s scope of activity must be enhanced. The government, instigated by vested quarters, has incurred huge loss by giving foreign companies the charge of gas exploration from several fields. Still the government has been supplying gas to consumers at lower price despite collecting the product from the foreign companies at higher price. If Bapex can extract the gas, there will no longer be need to pay commission to the foreign companies.