Govt open to acquiring foreign coal, gas fields

Govt plans to acquire foreign coal, gas fields
Energy adviser says; country needs to generate 30,000-50,000 MW power in next two decades
Sharier Khan

Alongside tapping the coal and gas resources in the country, the government is planning to acquire some coal and gas fields abroad to ensure long-term energy security, said Energy Adviser Towfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury.

At a discussion of the power division and Power Development Board (PDB) on Saturday he said, “We are looking at generating 30,000 to 50,000 megawatts of power in the next two decades and hence are open to acquiring assets in other countries.”

In future, half the country’s energy would be generated from coal, he told the discussion organised to interact with the four non-resident Bangladeshi experts who were invited by The Daily Star to share their knowledge on alternative energy and new technology at the newspaper’s first Colloquium Friday.

Replying to a question on why the government has not yet taken any visible move on larger scale coal development, the energy adviser said the works on building a coal city in Barapukuria was in progress which would serve as a hub for coal development in that region.

“We have to ask the National Water Modelling Institute to study the aquifers in the northern region so that we understand the effect and result of coal mining there,” he said, adding, “Presently, we lack adequate data.”

Understanding ground water tables is vital for coal mining. Mining without understanding the water structure can seriously affect the ground water situation.

The energy adviser noted that for such enormous development in the energy sector, especially surrounding coal, an investment of billions of dollars is required to develop the road, water and rail infrastructure to transport raw materials and equipment.

He observed that in the last two years, the government moved for procurement of 4,000MW of power — something that no other government had done before.

This year, the government would move for procurement of the similar scale and complete tendering for setting up of a terminal to import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as an alternative backup for the country’s declining gas supplies.

“Besides, we are also considering a plan to import Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) from Shahbazpur Gas Field in Bhola to serve the gas starving regions (this gas field is largely unutilised). Similarly, we can transport some excess gas from the Sylhet region through rail to Chittagong,” said Towfiq-e-Elahi.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) was offering loans for 3,000MW solar power to its member countries, the energy adviser noted, adding that he had sought loans for 500MW from the bank. The ADB has not responded to the proposal, but it gave an initial positive feedback.

“How do we utilise this opportunity? I have discussed the matter with Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury and she proposed that we install 1MW solar unit in each upazila. This may be a good idea. A 1MW solar unit will take three acres of land and can pave the way to spread solar plants across the country by 2012,” said the adviser.

He said the government is also considering solution to providing energy to rural people — 80 percent of the country’s population, who have no access to commercial fuel.

“Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) is preparing a strategy paper on how to address this issue so that these people no longer have to depend on firewood and leaves for primary fuel,” he said.

The government is also taking initiatives for energy services for the poor, he said pointing out that most of the poor people cannot afford power, which they should to change their lives.

One such initiative can provide power to 15,000 community clinics across the country from where the poor people would get the services dependent of power.

The government is also forming National Energy Research Council in line with the existing National Agriculture Research Council. This new council will open scope for local researchers, engineering graduates or students to conduct research on various aspects of energy for home grown solutions, said Towfiq-e-Elahi, adding that non-resident Bangladeshi experts will be involved in this council.


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