10th September 2019
Saleque Sufi

Bangladesh made commendable achievement in economic development at an impressive rate of 6.5% plus over the past decade mainly due to cheaper and easily available fuel and power. But now for fast depletion of major own fuel natural gas and continued hesitation for exploiting own discovered coal resource, the government has gone for import of primary fuel coal and LNG. Liquid fuel (crude oil and petroleum products) and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) were being imported for a while. In the recent past, LNG and electricity import have been added to that list. Very soon coal and uranium would be added to the import basket. We are all aware that fuel import from global market has many challenges. Regional and global geopolitics make global fuel market volatile. These have impact on the energy pricing. The price of fuel and power in Bangladesh is now well below international price. Bangladesh being riverine delta, the coastal area has shallow draft for setting up of enabling infrastructure for fuel import. By now the government has realized the depth, diversity and challenges of setting up coal port and LNG terminals. On top of these, any major geopolitical crisis may disrupt supply chain of imported fuel. Bangladesh cannot develop strategic reserve of imported fuel soon. In the backdrop of above, Bangladesh cannot afford going for exclusive imported fuel dependent. It needs to urgently carry out a detailed techno-economic feasibility study for working out a feasible and affordable fuel mix of domestic and imported fuel. Bangladesh should learn lessons from India. Indian central government and each state have carried out extensive study on their own potential minerals and hydrocarbon resources, the realistic demand growth and how these can be met through interregional energy transactions and import. They have done extensive study on infrastructure requirements for importing fuel, the cost of fuel and energy, requirements of subsidy. It is high time for Bangladesh to engage a team of experts for carrying out such study.

 

Bangladesh is not a country like Japan or South Korea, which do not have reasonable own primary fuel resource. Bangladesh has superior quality discovered coal resource which if exploited applying off the shelf proven technology can be ideal for generation of 10,000-15,000 MW of power for many years. Bangladesh fuel mix till now is dominated by own sweet gas. Vast offshore area of the Bay of Bengal remains virtually unexplored. There is potential for discovering more gas in onshore areas. Even there are possibilities for discovered gas fields growing reserves through exploring the deeper horizons. Bangladesh has possibilities for further developing solar, wind and saving power and energy through enhancing efficiency and conservation.

 

Policy makers have started realizing now that supplying power and energy at affordable price has grown to become a major challenge now. From an exclusive own fuel dependency, Bangladesh is developing into a net primary fuel import dependent economy. If one closely review the planned fuel mix of the government for achieving power sector vision 2030 and 2041 finds that by 2030, for achieving 40,000 MW power generation capacity, Bangladesh would become over 90% dependent on imported fuel (LNG, coal, imported power, liquid fuel, LPG and uranium). In 2041, for achieving 60,000 MW planned generation capacity, the imported fuel dependency may exceed 95%. What will be the level of energy and power price at that time? Can our industries specially export-oriented industries remain competitive in global market absorbing that price? There is no authentic and reliable techno-economic feasibility study, no academic research done yet. Some persons some time say uninterrupted supply of reliable power will create massive industrialization and economy would be able to absorb the price shock. But without a clear indication of energy and power pricing year by year, how entrepreneurs would plan for making millions and billions dollars of investment. In the present uncertain situation of fuel supply, no genuine investor would risk in investment of borrowed money. Even bankers in due diligence would not find investment bankable.

 

The Present Situation and The Plan

Engr. Mohammad Hossain, Director General of Power Cell, has recently made a presentation in South Asia LNG Forum 2019. His presentation stated that Bangladesh now has a capacity of generating 22,059 MW power (including off grid captive generation and import). The highest actual generation achieved so far 12,893 MW. According to him, 94% of the population have access to power. The per capita generation now is 510 Kwh.

 

Bangladesh is aspiring to become mid-income country by 2021 and developed country by 2041. The generation target according to him in 2021, 2030 and 2041 are:

 

2021

2030

2041

Generation Capacity  (MW)

24,000

40,000

60,000

Per Capita Generation (Kwh)

 580

1200

2100

 

Do we really need 24,000 MW generation by 2021 or 40,000 by 2030? Knowledgeable persons argue stating Bangladesh with 12,893 MW highest generation and 94% access of power for citizens encounter a situation of huge difference between peak and off peak. Bangladesh suffers from fuel supply constraints. What situation may happen in 2021 and onwards? Will the demand grow dramatically? How the projects now in the pipeline for achieving targets for 2021, 2030 and 2041 would achieve conceived rate of return? Can Bangladesh export power? If so, to whom and from when?

 

DG Power cell presentation also mentioned about fuel mix in 2019 and projected fuel mix of 2030 and 2041.

 

Fuel Mix 2019

Fuel

% Contribution

Own  Gas and LNG

63%

Furnace Oil

17%

HSD

   7%

Power Import

   8%

Coal

   3%

Hydro and Others

   2%

Import dependency including LNG is about 35%

 

Fuel Mix 2030 (For 40,000 MW)

Fuel

% Contribution

Own Gas and LNG

11,200 MW (28%)

Coal

12,000 MW (30%)

Import

   6,400 MW (16%)

Liquid Fuel

   5,4000 MW(14%)

Nuclear

   4,400  MW ( 11%)

Hydro

       400 MW   (1%)

 

Almost entire coal and gas as LNG would require to be imported, power import, liquid fuel and uranium would add to import basket. This would make Bangladesh over 90% fuel import dependent.

 

Our concern is what will be the fuel price and what would be power tariff in that situation? Can Bangladesh market grow that big too soon to absorb significant portion of that power leaving reasonable spinning margin?

 

Fuel Mix 2041 (60,000 MW Capacity)

Fuel

% Contribution

Own Gas and LNG

21,000 MW (35%)

Coal (Mostly Imported)

21,000 MW (35%)

Power Import

   9,500 MW ( 16%)

Nuclear

   7,2000MW (12%)

Liquid Fuel

       600 MW (1%)

Hydro

       600 MW (1%)

 

What is the basis of this plan? Why Bangladesh is delaying in finalizing Power System Master Plan? If government achieves such lofty target at all the energy and power generation in business as usual would become over 95% dependent on imported fuel if the nation fails to explore own coal and discover some major gas fields at onshore and offshore by then.

 

We do not want to question the government’s ability for setting up enabling infrastructure for coal and LNG import and another nuclear power plant so soon. Hope the government can secure financial support from friendly countries for coal infrastructure in a very challenging situation about climate concerns.

 

Our suggestion is Bangladesh must immediately go for a comprehensive study on techno-economic feasibility study on sustainable fuel supply, affordable fuel mix with price impact and other challenges. The study must produce price range of different scenarios. Based on the study, the government must announce a comprehensive fuel utilization plan and pricing strategy with actual forecasting of price and subsidy (if required). We have in the past how unplanned energy program of Pakistan has ended into disaster not by once, by twice. Now Pakistan has almost become bankrupt. Bangladesh has huge untapped primary fuel resources. We have fallen behind for failures of Petrobangla and EMRD. But there is still time to recover. We must immediately taken decision for mining coal and must expedite exploration for Petroleum. But for that we need to reorganize Petrobangla to what father of the nation Bangabandhu dreamt a self-governed national entity of true professionals and free from bureaucratic interference.

 

Saleque Sufi;

Contributing Editor


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