No respite in Chittagong gas crisis

Ref: THE prolonged gas crisis over the last 5-6 years has essentially sapped business prospects in the port city of Chittagong. Petrobangla boasts of increasing gas production by 500 million standard cubic feet per day (mmcfd). Contrary to that, gas supply to Karnaphuli (KGDCL) franchise remains in the region of 195-210mmcfd today. Practically, gas supply to Chittagong has been reduced after such huge claim by Petrobangla.
After splitting of Bakhrabad Gas System Ltd (BGSL); Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Ltd (KGDCL) became responsible for supply of gas in Chittagong district including the Hill Tracts, and Bakhrabad Gas Distribution Company Ltd (BGDCL) looks after gas supply in Comilla and Brahmanbaria region. These two franchise areas get their supplies from two sources: (i) production from smaller fields around Bakhrabad hub and Chittagong region (namely Bakhrabad, Saldanadi, Srikail, Feni, Sundalpur, Semutang, Sangu gas fields etc); those are having tiny reserve potentials, and (ii) import from the north-east gas fields via Ashuganj-Bakhrabad (A-B) pipeline.
A-B pipeline transports gas from the north and delivers about 570mmscfd to two bifurcation lines at Bakhrabad hub. One is Bakhrabad-Demra (B-D) 60 km pipeline and the other is 175 Km Bakhrabad-Chittagong (B-C). Currently, free flow gas distribution at Bakhrabad hub is 66% to B-D and 34% to B-C pipelines respectively. In 2010, the ratio was about 60%-40% at the rate of 480mmscfd distribution. Being closer than Chittagong; Dhaka and its surrounding regions get the larger portion of A-B deliveries. The only Bakhrabad-Chittagong (B-C) corridor for Chittagong whose original design capacity is 350mmscfd at 960psi at Bakhrabad point is now operating at about 600 psig pressure; currently able to handle maximum 190mmscfd from A-B pipeline. Thus, B-C pipeline is kept underutilised by about 100mmscfd than its design capacity, because of layman’s excuse of transmission bottleneck; the case remains unchanged over last 6 years.
gapIn 2008 Ministry of Energy undertook several gas exploration and infrastructure development projects with special focus to alleviate Chittagong gas crisis and to capitalise growth potential of Chittagong. The plan articulates that by 2012, more than 600mmscfd supply will be ensured through production improvement from smaller fields namely Bakhrabad, Meghna, Saldanadi, Feni, Semutang, Srikail, Begumganj, Sangu, etc and piping 400 mmscfd from the north. Development of such smaller fields has been accomplished partially that added about 80mmscfd but nothing is allocated for Chittagong since the additional production has in its entirety been consumed by the upstream consumers. Quantity of piping gas from north is unchanged and hovering at 180-190mmscfd because new A-B-C pipeline plan is shelved and the existing A-B pipeline has not been allowed rational gas distribution at Bakhrabad hub.
It is rotten luck for Chittagong residents that the pipeline project has been shelved. Additional disappointment came when Santos fell back from developing “Magnama” field. Meanwhile quick LNG project got sidetracked, which according to experts was the wrong strategy to adopt in terms of timing. This has practically blocked previously planned development projects for Chittagong. Gas Transmission Company (GTCL) which has diverted its concentration from constructing planned A-B-C loop line and a line compressor at Feni that had been identified as the only permanent solution by the Ministry of Energy in 2008. Today, Chittagong has neither any reliable producing gas fields nor any stable transportation backbone. Consequently, Chittagong is now getting only 50% of its existing demand (400-420 mmscfd).
Gazprom’s gas development program (drilling of 10 wells) will provide us in stages, about 250 mmscfd by 2014. Chevron is on board to supply additional 400mmscfd by 2015 from its gas fields. BAPEX is also working, albeit at a sedate pace, which would add some amount of gas to the national grid. All these would add about 800mmscfd into the national grid by 2015. Ironically, since the transportation bottleneck exists persistently, Chittagong may end up receiving a meagre quantity of additional gas supply unless the Energy Ministry takes up the issue seriously.
Given the above scenario, precisely how consumers in Chittagong will react when the port city remains in the grip of gas scarcity in two years is anyone’s guess; especially when significant new gas, primarily from Sylhet and Titas fields, augments the national gas supply and the line compressors are installed in Ashuganj. Unless Energy Ministry takes a rational and equitable distribution policy to allocate 320mmscfd (about 80% of current demand) for survival of Chittagong; severity of crisis in coming years will be unimaginable. It is understandable that maintaining design pressure at Bakhrabad hub is almost impossible because of overall flow hydraulics of the transmission network. The only way to get out of this vicious circle is to implement 2008 plan through construction of Ashuganj-Bakhrabad-Chittagong express pipeline with bi-directional design criteria so that gas can flow to either of the two directions.

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