Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013

Gas reality awaits projects

Govt plan to start 14 gas-guzzling power plants faces uncertainty

Many gas-based power projects are facing uncertainty as a two-year-old high gas supply projection of Petrobangla has proved wrong.
The government is implementing in the next two years 14 large gas-based and three dual-fuel (gas or oil) power projects with close to 6,000 megawatt capacity — equivalent to what the country regularly produces now.
These plants will need 800 to 1,000 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) gas by 2015. But Petrobangla’s latest projection puts the supply increase by around 600 mmcfd at that time. Experts put this figure even much below that.
While gas crunch has already kept several power plants idle, a few new plants are set to gradually start operation this year.
Most of the new power projects were initiated on the basis of Petrobangla’s 2011 projection showing a supply increase by 2,465 million mmcfd in December ’15. This figure is more than double of what we get today.
But last year, Petrobangla Chairman Husain Monsur drastically cut this projection as some of the gas sector initiatives failed.
The Power Division, however, did not take this cut into consideration and went ahead with awarding contracts to different companies to set up the plants.
“I have always opposed gas-based power plants, as their uncertainty is much higher than other energy sources,” said Husain Monsur, who has refrained from giving gas supply clearance to many of the new power projects.
“It will no longer be wise to set up gas-based power plants. It has to be dual-fuel,” he said, adding that despite supply increase from 2009, the shortage of gas has remained unchanged at 500 mmcfd due to its high demand.
The PDB signs contracts with parties to set up gas-based power plants without obtaining gas supply assurance from Petrobangla, he said.
But a power ministry official noted that Petrobangla’s non-cooperation with the PDB has taken a new turn recently.
“On instructions from the Petrobangla chairman, the Titas Gas company on March 25 stopped gas supply to a 145 MW rental power plant in Ghorashal under the PDB system, saying that the plant had not taken permission from Petrobangla for gas supply.”
The rental plant was supplied gas from surplus gas previously allocated to the PDB.
To resolve this issue, the prime minister’s energy adviser had to intervene. On his directive, gas supply to that rental plant would be resumed this week while the government would keep three gas-based fertiliser factories shut for a couple of months to increase power supply for irrigation.
At present, power plants in the country can generate around 7,000 MW, which is more than the present demand. But due to lack of gas supply, the PDB is generating around 6,000 MW power.
“If we are given gas from these three fertiliser factories, we can ensure up to 6,700 MW power generation, enough to meet the total demand for power,” said a PDB official.
Meanwhile, a 412 MW power plant in Haripur built by Japanese company Marubeni has started test operation using gas diverted from some small power plants. The plant is set to go into full operation in July.
Besides, the 335 MW Meghnaghat dual-fuel power plant built by local company Summit is scheduled to begin partial operation in August this year (and full operation in May next year). “We do not know from where the authorities would provide gas to run this plant,” said another PDB official.
Husain Monsur hopes to add 115 mmcfd of gas to the national network by May or June this year from a number of gas fields such as Titas, Srikail, Bakhrabad and Fenchuganj.
Summit is expected to go for partial operation of its Bibiyana-2 power project next year, and in 2014, more than a dozen power plants are likely to come into operation.