The government has taken steps to increase gas production from local sources to overcome the ongoing crunch in the country.
Initiatives have been taken to raise production and bolster exploration activities by overhauling the existing and abandoned 46 gas wells. This plan will be implemented in phases over the next three and a half years.
Officials expect that around 620 million cubic feet of gas will be added to national grid per day and this will reduce the import of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas).
Experts say the issue of giving priority to domestic oil and gas exploration to ease the dependence on import has long been neglected.
Mahbub Hossain, Senior Secretary of Energy and Mineral Resources Division, said, “We have taken up a plan to drill 46 wells, which will add gas production by 618 million cubic feet per day to the national grid by 2025. Among the 46 wells, 17 are being explored, 12 are at development stage and 17 are at workover stage.”
“We are going into deep drilling in old gas fields hoping that reserves will increase. Besides, initiatives have also been taken to conduct exploration activities in the hilly areas. We are expecting that the gas production will be increased by another 1,000 million cubic feet per day by 2027-2028,” he added.
Energy and Mineral Resources Division officials said that Petrobangla and Bapex have plans to dig exploration wells in the Chattogram Hill Tracts and Shariatpur district soon this year. Currently a well is being drilled in Srikail. Moreover, workover work is now going on in Biyanibazar-1 and Tobgi-1 in Bhola district. Digging has started in one well in Bhola and some other wells will also be drilled.
According to Petrobangla sources, Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company (BAPEX) will explore for gas in the Chattogram Hill Tracts in a joint venture with foreign companies. Three companies have already expressed interest in this. Ariel, an Uzbekistan company has already submitted an interest letter. They have offered to work with Bapex on exploration, development and production in the 22A and 22B blocks of the CHT. Besides, the multinational company is keen to invest in Bhola gas field. Ariel has a drilling rig in Bangladesh.
On the other hand the Energy and Mineral Resources Division has taken an initiative to conduct 1000 line kilometer 2-D and 70 line kilometer 3-D seismic surveys in the 2022-23 financial year for gas exploration.
Currently Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited (BAPEX) under Petrobangla is conducting two 2-D seismic and a 3-D seismic survey. Besides, two 3-D seismic surveys are going on by Sylhet Gas Fields Limited (SGFL). Bangladesh Gas Fields Company Limited (BGFCL) has also planned to conduct a 3-D seismic survey.
The daily demand for natural gas in the country is around 400 crore cubic feet, while production capacity is 376 crore cubic feet including LNG, with Petrobangla currently supplying only 280 crore cubic feet.
Due to the acute shortage of natural gas, production in industries is being hampered. Other consumers like power plants, fertilizer factories, CNG stations, residential and other sectors in the country are also suffering from gas crunch.
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) has conducted a survey to assess the gas supply situation and garment production in 64 factories in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur. The survey revealed that the gas pressure in the factories has decreased abnormally in the last two months. They got gas at an average of 1.8 psi. As a result, the production has decreased by 40 to 50 percent.
Nazmul Ahsan, Chairman of Petrobangla said, “We are going to explore local gas to reduce import dependency. We have assigned an international consultant, Wood Mackenzie, to review the existing model production sharing contract. The work of updating it is in the final stage. We are expecting to invite the offshore bidding round to explore oil and gas from the Bay of Bengal by end of December,” he added.
Mr. Ahsan also said, “We are planning to renovate or overhaul the aging, drying up and abandoned gas fields. We hope that 100 million more cubic feet of gas will be added to the national grid in this process.”
Experts said, due to non-increase in gas production, this sector has become import-dependent, and now due to increase in gas prices in the global market, an acute crisis has been created.
According to a recent report by the Energy Division, production from the country's fields could drop by 18.4 crore cubic feet of gas per day in 2022-23 if no major gas fields are discovered. Daily production may fall by 43.5 crore cubic feet in 2023-24.
Energy expert M Tamim says, "After the present government came to power, the capacity of the power plant has been increased due to their energy policy. But the primary fuel issue has not been solved. ''
“We have completely failed to ensure sustainable primary fuel supply. As a result, we have faced an unprecedented situation due to the increase in the price of gas and oil in the global market,'' he said.
Sources said, the country's total proven and potential gas reserves are 29.54 trillion cubic feet in 27 commercial gas fields. However, according to Petrobangla's data, 20 trillion cubic feet of total gas reserves had already been extracted by 2021.
Currently, the country's gas fields produce about 900 billion cubic feet of gas per year. If gas is to be produced in this way, natural gas can be produced in the country only for the next 10 years.