Vol. 5 Num 1137 Fri. August 10, 2007  

Growing demand for electricity
Country needs 13m tons of coal a yr to generate additional power

Bangladesh would require 13 million tons of coal every year for the next 10 years to generate additional power to meet the growing demand for electricity, as the natural gas supplies would not be able to cater for this need.

The power plants needs a supply of 9 trillion cubic feet (tcf) gas to meet the demand for power up to 2025. Along with gas supplies for other consumers, Petrobangla should have 20 tcf gas up to that period, but it has only 13 tcf gas, said Moniruddin, a representative of the Power Development Board (PDB), at a discussion on coal policy.

The 10-member national coal committee headed by former Buet Vice Chancellor Prof Abdul Matin Patwari orgnised the discussion at the Petrobangla conference room in the city yesterday.

According to the sixth draft coal policy, if Bangladesh's GDP remains as low as 5.5 percent up to 2025, the country needs to generate 19000 megawatt additional power and if the GDP is as high as 8 percent, it needs 41000 mw additional power.

But Petrobangla has said that the production of gas -- which has been the key source for power generation -- will start to decline from 2011. This is where the country's coal resources should play a key role.

"In the low GDP scenario, we will need 136 million tons (mt) of coal and in the high GDP scenario we will need 450 mt of coal," Moniruddin said.

Chairman of University Grants Commission Prof Nazrul Islam, defence representative Maj Gen Ismail Faruk Chowdhury, journalist Ataus Samad, geologist Prof Badrul Imam, Research Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Petrobangla Director Moqbul-e-Elahi, Infrastructure Investment Facilitation Center (IIFC) chief Nazrul Islam, Prof Nurul Islam of Buet and M Zaman of the World Bank also took part in the discussion.

The gas scenario is so unpromising that the Power Cell is currently unable to sign Gas Sales Agreements for three small power projects totalling 100 mw, as the Petrobangla said it would not be able to supply the required gas, said Moniruddin.

"We cannot get adequate coal supplies from Barapukuria mine. We might have to import coal to generate power," he added.

At the discussion, majority of the speakers opposed coal exports and emphasised its utilisation for domestic power generation.

They also voiced the need to form a national body styled as 'Coal Bangla' under the government to handle coal mining in the country.

The speakers also noted that the sixth version of the draft coal policy is full of contradictions which need to be addressed and that this policy should be a part of the national energy policy.

Some speakers opposed open pit mining on the ground of environmental damage, and also on the ground that open pit mining will produce so much coal that it will compel the country to export it.

They also said that Barapukuria underground mine is a bad deal and that should not be used as an example of mining method.

Former PDB chairman Nuruddin M Kamal pointed out that as per the constitution, the people of the country are the owner of natural resources. The constitution also says that if any law contradicts with this statement, then that part of the law should be deleted. Yet, existing laws related to coal mining simply want to give away the resources to foreign companies in exchange of royalty. This should be clarified, he added.

Engr Sheikh Md Shahidullah of National Committee to Protect Oil and Gas Resources, Zakir Hossain of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon and Anu Mohammad of Jahangirnagar University also spoke.