Only 9 gas wells drilled out of 21

Although the government laid emphasis on exploring gas and increasing production in a bid to overcome the crisis, the government agencies are lagging behind in implementing the plan.

Moreover, plans were also taken to drill new wells.

The energy and mineral resource division targeted to drill 46 wells in four years to increase gas extraction.

21 wells were supposed to be drilled in two years in 2022 and 2023. However, only 9 wells are drilled.

During the period, 280 million cubic feet of gas was supposed to be added to the national grid from the new wells. Only 25 million cubic feet of gas was added, which is only 9 per cent of the target.

While the scenario of drilling gas wells is so bad on land, the picture is worse offshore.

Sources at the Bangladesh Oil, Gas & Mineral Corporation- Petrobangla said there is no progress in exploring oil and gas in the Bay of Bengal despite the resolution of maritime boundary for over a decade.

Although the production sharing contract (PSC) over sharing gas after extraction has been approved in the cabinet six months ago, tender has not been called yet.

Meanwhile, the production of gas from the gas fields on shore is decreasing every year. But import of gas could not be raised due to the dollar crisis.

As a whole, the gas crisis persists. Six districts including Chattogram face acute gas crisis throughout the day on 19 January due to the technical glitch at the LNG terminal where imported Liquified Natural Gas is stored. The supply of LNG started from Saturday, but the demand cannot be fulfilled.

Sources at the concerned agencies said the gas crisis may exist throughout the year despite the fixing of the technical glitch at the LNG terminal.

As a result, the industries will suffer from the gas crisis while the general people will also suffer as the gas will also not be available for the cooking and transport sector.

In 2022, the business people demanded uninterrupted gas from the government and they wanted to pay the additional cost. In 2023, the government raised gas prices by 180 per cent. But the gas crisis was not solved. Now the businessmen are paying additional price, but the crisis in the industries persist.

Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) president Mohammad Ali, speaking to Prothom Alo, said the situation of gas is now worse now than the time when the price of gas was raised. Many factories are now shut. Many more factories will be shut.

The demand of gas in the country is 3.80 billion cubic feet a day. If 3 billion cubic feet of gas is supplied, the demand can be fulfilled. But only 2.50 billion cubic feet has been supplied in the last two months. Two billion cubic feet is supplied from the local gas fields. The rest is imported LNG.

The government started to import LNG in 2018. From the beginning, the experts warned about the risk of dependence on imports. They advised to increase the extraction locally. But the government focused on imports. The import of LNG was slashed in 2022 in the wake of the dollar crisis.

Afterwards the energy and mineral resources division took an initiative to increase gas extraction. It was said that 46 wells will be drilled by 2025 to increase gas extraction speedily. Of these, six wells were supposed to be drilled in 2022 and 15 wells in 23.

It was assumed that the supply of 620 cubic feet of gas will be increased a day if all wells are drilled, which is nearly 25 per cent of the current supply.

Energy division sources said only nine wells have been drilled within the stipulated time and drilling of three more wells is going on.

There is a plan to drill 14 wells in the current year while 11 in 2025. The energy division also said they will drill 100 more new wells.

Why delay

Petrobangla is in charge of mineral resources. Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited (BAPEX), Bangladesh Gas Fields Company Limited (BGFCL) and Sylhet Gas Fields Company Limited (SGFL) under the Petrobangla are involved in gas extraction.

Of these, only BAPEX has the ability to drill wells. The other two companies engage contractors to drill wells.

Sources at Petrobangla and three companies said the plan to drill 46 wells was not pragmatic. Bangladesh has experience drilling the highest two or three wells a year. It is not possible to drill wells in a limited time. As a result, the target to drill wells by 2025 will not be fulfilled.

People concerned further said approval of a development project proposal (DPP) takes more than a year, followed by land acquisition and machinery procurement, and that takes several more months. It also takes at least three and a half months to complete an exploratory well or a development well since drilling starts. Digging of workover well takes two months. Officials said it is easy to say anything and make plans, but that are difficult to implement. If several foreign companies are given the task, it will be possible to drill more wells simultaneously.

Petrobangla director (planning) Md Abdul Manna Patwary told once agreements are signed with foreign companies work on drilling will speed up.

Slow drilling

BAPEX was supposed to drill 20 wells in four years although five wells have been drilled in two years against a target of digging 10 wells.

According to BAPEX sources, earlier three wells were drilled in Bhola, and gas was found in all of them. A well was drilling in Madaripur, but no gas was found. Gas was found in another well drilled in the Srikail gas field in Cumilla, but exploration of gas was not commercially viable. Besides, the drilling of a well in Sundolpur, Noakhali is likely to be completed in February, followed by the start of drilling another well in Begumganj of this district.

BAPEX managing director Md Shoyeb told Prothom Alo they are trying to drill all of the wells within the stipulated time.

The Sylhet Gas Field Limited (SGFL) will drill a total of 14 wells. They were supposed to complete the drilling of seven wells in the first two years, but the drilling of three wells has been completed so far while work on another well is in progress, which is likely to end in a month. According to the SGFL sources, 16 million cft of gas was supplied to the national grid for two of their wells while oil along with gas is also found in another well. However, it may take at least another eight months to extract gas from this well.

SGFL managing director Mizanur Rahman told land it takes time to acquire land, appoint contractors and bring drilling machinery. However, the drilling of all wells will be completed within the stipulated time.

Bangladesh Gas Fields Company Limited (BGFCL) was supposed to drill 12 wells, including the digging of four wells in 2023. But they completed the drilling of a well in 2023 and supplied 8.5 million cft of gas to the national grid. Workover of another well is likely to start at the end of January. The BGFCL submitted proposals on the workover of six out of eight wells to the Power Division. Besides, four more development wells will be drilled, but DPPs are yet to be prepared.

BGFCL managing director Md Abdus Sultan said DPP will be finalised after the allocation of funds is confirmed.

3 foreign firms awaiting deals

Along with BAPEX, foreign companies including Gazprom of Russia, Sinopec of China and Eriell Group of Uzbekistan also work on drilling gas wells in Bangladesh. Foreign firms are usually offered work without calling tender.

Power Division sources said China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, known as Sinopec Corporation, is going to receive drilling work for five wells. Gazprom has received drilling work for 20 wells so far since 2012 and will get five more.

The Power Division argues that BAPEX alone will take long to drill wells, so work is being offered to foreign companies, but foreign firms are allegedly offered work instead of increasing the capacity of the BAPEX.

Geologist Badrul Imam told that import dependency is causing trouble for the government whereas businesses and people become the victims. The plan that has been taken up amid a crisis is not practical, he added.

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