Energy crisis: Prime Minister Hasina’s role



When we NRBs think and talk about our dear motherland Bangladesh, now in desperate crisis, we must realise that when the chief resources are constrained, the cities are overpopulated, the government is ingrained in corruption and terrorism is a major threat, tackling energy crisis is a great challenge. We have too many smart persons who always talk big and but do very little. Everyone wants their own end served at the expense of the miseries of others. Despite these, many of us have great heart for Bangladesh and we try to grab any opportunity to make any contribution to our national development efforts.

Bangladesh is in serious energy crisis. Gas power and water supply crisis are playing hell there. We need to have almost a war-time-unity to combat and resolve it.

Bangabandhu daughter Sheikh Hasina in her second term as PM is putting her best efforts to confront the pressing issues with the best intent. We know that she is handicapped with several problems. She has to deal with external challenges and internally hindering activities of party cadres. War criminals and terrorist activists are after her blood. The last government, BNP-led, left her with a diabolical energy sector with chronic problems of mismanagement and corruption.

Nation and the world have witnessed how boldly and calmly she confronted the inevitable civil war situation triggered from Peelkhna carnage. She is relentlessly struggling to lead the country which is on the verge of collapse and taking it to a position of some sort of balance.

She is confronting energy crisis boldly like a true national leader. This writer was on a short trip to Bangladesh during the first week of April. Over this period, I had opportunity to meet Directors of Petrobangla, Secretary EMRD, Senior executives of TGTDCL and GTCL, also talked to Ex-Petrobangla Chairmen and ex State ministers of Energy Mr A. K. M Musharraf Hussian and Prof Rafqul Islam. Energy advisors, State Minister of Energy and Chairman PB were on tour abroad. Opportunity was there to participate in one TV talk show.

Energy situation in Bangladesh is in real mess. During my short stay in Bangladesh, it appeared that the actual deficit of both power and gas must be higher than what is officially admitted. There must be substantial unaccountable power and gases which are major reasons for failures of various contingency measures government have so far tried to mitigate crisis. A panic-stricken situation was observed in the top management of the gas sector. Persons appeared to lack confidence. It was a bit shocking to feel the lack of self-belief among long-time gas-sector colleagues. We confronted similar crisis on some occasions in the past with commitment and courage. But this time I observed the lack of courage. A feeling of insecurity and mistrust shocked the writer. Top management of energy sector must create situation to create comfort among the energy sector professionals.

Irrigation season is at its peak. Bangladesh is also experiencing prolonged draught and the highest level of sustained hot spell and humidity of the decade. PM Hasina like a bold State leader admitted her limitations to confront the crisis and appealed to citizens to observe austerity. She also underlined the requirements to undertake contingency actions for confronting crisis.

The country is on the verge of energy famine yet persons responsible to address the matters are staying abroad .Wonder why Energy Advisor, State Minister Energy and Petrobangla Chairman had to stay away from Bangladesh at the same time when Bangladesh is burning in the fire of hell. What useful purpose the visit to Poland will serve to uproot the cause of energy security? Why Energy advisor or state minister energy can not own the responsibility or share it at this hour of crisis? Why every issue must be thrown into the court of PM?

PM has already dealt with two important matters for which some irresponsible persons must have been taken to task. PM like her illustrious father must not rule the country with heart. She must deal some matters with head as well. PM had to cancel the reintroduction of day light savings which was introduced without home-work last year. She also cancelled purchase efforts of electric poles which some quarter believed was designed to serve the interest of a brother of a well positioned person of ruling party.

PM met Power ministry officials on 8th April and made some very important announcements. Same evening this writer had the opportunity to participate in a TV talk show directed to evaluate the aspects of her announcements.

The major areas which PM stressed upon were :

• Market owners and shopkeepers are not to use electricity from the national power grid after 7:00pm.
• Power distribution agencies to shorten the period of outage to one hour from two, and shed load every alternate hour.
• Prime minister has called upon the market owners and shopkeepers not to use electricity from the national power grid after 7:00pm. If any one wants to keep their shops and businesses open after that time, they have been asked to depend on their own generators.
• PM encouraged energy sector officials to innovate practical ideas to save power at this time of serious national crisis.
• PM advised PB to find ways to encourage LPG use in domestic cooking.
• PM also advised power ministry to devise means to shorten tendering process and expedite implementation of major power plant installation projects.
• PM directed the power officials to motivate the consumers not to waste electricity.

We all must admit that energy crisis is a national crisis and nation must stand together and confront it unitedly. Never in the past had any Head of the State shown the honesty to admit the failures limitations of his or her governments. Never in the past had the leader of the government made such fervent appeal to the nation to observe austerity in power and energy use. PM Hasina deserves special thanks for that. Proud Bangladeshi nation has encountered similar and greater national challenges in the past and if responsible politicians can forge unity of the people to combat the crisis, this crisis can also be mitigated and overcome.

Now let us try and analyse a little deeper the reasons for such huge demand supply imbalance in power and gas grid which has triggered the present crisis. There exists a tendency among our management to hide real demand and deficit. Any energy sector independent analyst will agree that power demand at this stage without even including the suppressed demand is beyond 6000MW per day and gas demand must be about 2500MMCFD. Unless we have correct figures of demand no contingency measures can work. When our Power ministry say the power demand is 5500MW and generation is about 4000MW people have reasons to disbelieve as this can not make tax payers suffer for more than 12 hours load shedding in tremendous heat and humidity. When we say our gas demand is about 2300MMCFD and our production is about 2300MMCFD the situation must be handled by playing intelligently with line pack [inventory of gas in about 2500Km high pressure national Gas grid]. The situation must have witnessed major improvement after shutting down 5 out of 7 fertilizer plants. Hence power and energy sector management are now caught in their own trap. The injudicious efforts of hiding real deficit are causing the embarrassment.

Shopping culture must have been changed by now in realisation of energy supply limitation. People in almost all modern cities shop within office hours on week days. Usually on week ends shops remain open till mid nights. There are some 24/7 shops foe essential drugs and medicines. We must try and replicate this particular western culture in our society.

Simultaneous to restricting shopping hours, government must restrict use of grid electricity to night clubs, bars and reastaurents. While citizens suffer, some fun lovers must not be allowed to make merry with ill-earned money. Please ban use of grid power in all posh clubs bars and restaurants after 7PM. PM and ministers must also demonstrate leadership sharing the agonies. There must be restrictions in power use in their offices and residences.

CNG price must be immediately increased to 75% of liquid fuel price to discourage use of inefficient CNG conversion equipment and mushroom growth of CNG refuelling stations. CNG introduction is a noble effort. But our shameteurism has spoiled these efforts. Gas supply to CNG stations must be restricted to off-peak hours only.

We always considered pipeline supply of gas to domestic consumers was a waste of efforts. In past, ministers exploited their positions to burden gas companies to extend gas supply to far-flung villages like Dagonbhuiya, Basurhat, Muradnagar, Debidwar, and other places draining huge money from government exchequers. The Dhaka city distribution network was not even designed to absorb load of so many multi-storeyed buildings and mushroom-growth of industries RMG factories in city suburbs. Gas supply to all posh multi-storied apartments must be disconnected within a ceratin dateline. The owners of posh apartments can afford to have LPG use. Bangladesh must expedite efforts to extract more LPG from natural gas stream.

It is a shame that PM advisor, despite his challenge to set up NGL fractionation plant in Sylhet in 1998, failed to do it even in 2010. He was so committed to do it that we had his vision of relocating it from Ashuganj as originally planned. Condensate rich Beanibazar gas field is on the verge of depletion. The lone PNGL plant and LPG bottling unit at Golapganj Sylhet very often suffers from indifferent operation strategies. Bashundhara, Klenheat, Summit Group are in LPG business. More incentives in the shape of tax relief in LPG Cylinder import, LPG import must be given. LPG is also an important automotive fuel.

Natural Gas Grid is now suffering from management crisis. With great difficulties we set up SCADA facilities for unified control of national gas grid. We were shocked to notice that this has become inoperative. We could control gas grid from Ashuganj or Demra Grid centre. This time during Dhaka visit it came to our attention that that SCADA is no longer in operation. This makes the logic of a separate GTCL questionable. Wonder why GTCL is hibernating? Our gas grid simulation evidences that at least 10% area of gas grid must have accumulated deposition of gas liquid and condensates which are impacting adversely on gas system pressure. Major transmission pipelines are designed to be pigged at required intervals. But pipelines like North –South, Rashid poor –Ashuganj, Ashuganj –Bakhrabad, Brahmaputra Basin were never pigged after commissioning. We have serious doubts whether present GTCL management can do it. The present operation of gas system indicates that some liquid may have entered distribution network as well. Will it require PM Hasina to instruct refurbishment of SCADA in national Gas Grid or order on-stream pigging?

Top management is out to rearrange gas sector top management with its own favoured persons. Already two very committed and experienced officials have been made scape-goats. PM Hasina must look into it before situation goes out of control.

Energy crisis is the single most important challenge to this government. Power scarcity has triggered water crisis. In this severe hot and humid condition, people are having serious predicaments. To have first-hand experience of the depth and range of the crisis this writer ventured to visit Bangladesh from Melbourne where we never experience such energy calamity. We NRBs earnestly hope that PM Hasina will overcome the crisis by her dynamic leadership. But she must cut her smart assistants to sizes and make them perform.

7 Responses to “Energy crisis: Prime Minister Hasina’s role”

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    Yesterday i read a newspost about boropukuria coal mine and the open pit solution. what i want is my country to prosper and people to suffer less. can we do that? :'(

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    Khondkar A Saleque

    Our own coal is the most feasible fuel option now in the energy famine. .We have wasted time , money , efforts and energy in Barapukuria adopting the most inapproapraite minining method.It was the most ideal candidate for open pit mining for water saturated soft overburden, thick multilaer coal seams and strong undrerground aquifer.Modern subsurface water management could address the concerns as it does elsewhere.
    .But inappropriate substanadard chinese mining technology has drained out 17,000+ 17,000= Tk34,000Crore in mining and mine mouth mouth coal power plant construction. . Now ironically we realise underground mining is no longer feasible.Even 2% of the coal in place is not recovered. There had been some disasters -mine flooding,undergroung methane formation and fire incident and now major subsidence has initiated. Huge money has been plundred by vested quartersBarapukuria is a mine of corruption.
    It is not easy to turn an underground active mine into surface mine straighaway.First mining in the current phase needs to be completed. The mining siutaion needs to be reassessd .The surafce structures and mine mouth power plant may need to be relocated .A professional mining consultant may need to carry out refeasibility study and mine design again.All these are time consuming.It will take at least two -three years.
    There is no point in having a pilot project and spend fortune again.Open pit mining is standard practise and proven technology in many countries including India. Bangladesh may follow any model.Phulbari mine is ready for mining.AEC using the leading mine consulatants have carried out extensive feasibility study with impacts management plans. For 5 years novice Bangladeshi management is hiberating.The scheme of development has not been approved or rejected.
    We are proving silly and stupid to world community. Smart energy mafia syndicate is making policy makers fool.
    Government is advised to act smart and start mining at Phulbari adopting the most appropariate mining method ensuring appropraite environmental and social impacts management. Simultaneously it must start setting up some large mine mouth power plants.

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    oshoni shongket

    I think the current government has become a one person show. I am absolutely astonished at the spectacular performance of the PM. If she gets a 9 over 10 the rest of her cabinet would get a failing ‘F’ grade. Nothing seems to move without her intervention. Sloth and sluggishness has become the hallmark of this government.

    The energy crisis should have been left to energy specialists and technocrats. The adviser assigned to the ministry has failed miserably. It is now more than a year with no clear cut vision for future energy strategy. The Boropukuria coal reserves are lying idle while natural gas reserves are being guzzled by the national power sector due to sheer lack of management. Depleting the inland and offshore gas reserves in this irresponsible way is suicidal.

    The home minister is hardly seen visiting districts or crime spots. She may have been a good street agitator but a terrible choice for the home affairs. What the hell is she doing while Chhatra League is raging a terror campaign everywhere.

    Delaying the DCC mayor election is another major blunder for this government. A thoroughly corrupt person like Sadeq Hossain Khoka is allowed to extend his tenure beyond the mandate in the last elections some 7-8 years back. The LGRD ministry is yet to wake up from the Rip van Winkle slumber.

    The other day I was shocked to see an opportunist BNP adviser who betrayed Khaleda Zia, and a close friend of Mr. Muhith, a former illegitimate caretaker adviser and an emissary appointed by Fakruddin sent on errands to Washington, DC to persuade the State Department to recognize the military-backed fascist regime of 2007 occupying the front seats at a function addressed by the finance minister. We did not vote for the Awami League to see the rise of fascist forces under a democratically elected government.

    One hardly sees the government taking any steps aginst the people who were involved in smuggling historic museum pieces out of Bangladesh. same is true in case of getting back the assassins of Bangabanhu and prosecuting former DG DFI Bari who has close contacts with the killers.

    What is even more worrisome is the possibility that the golden opportunity of punishing the war criminals may slip out of this incompetent government’s grip. It is laughable to see journalists on a daily basis thronging some of the war crimes tribunal appointees and then ridiculing his remarks behind his back.

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    I think Sheikh Hasina too failed miserably. First by appointing a Gadha as advisor. Barapukuria coal is sitting idle waiting a political decision. CTG waited for an elected government to come and make the decision, we are still waiting. We need to take decisions and got to be fast. It’s sad that such an important ministry does not have one full minister in charge. That Gadha is not competent to become a minister and he is not. A Gadha can work but can not think and can not lead a sector which has such huge national impact. Sheikh Hasina gets a poor 2 for leading this Ministry.

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    Desh Premik

    I agree with the above comment. Talk to the general public in Dhaka. They will tell you something similar to what has been said above. After promising “big” during the election campaign, people claim that so far less or nothing has been delivered. The energy crisis is what the people are most irritated about. I believe that the PM’s energy adviser, including her current former-bureaucrat advisers, not to mention the “green” cabinet is dragging the government the wrong path, the path to disaster. The initial message given to the people may have been “too appetizing” meaning too much delivery promised to be fulfilled without a clearly defined time frame. I personally believe that NOTHING, especially in the energy sector has been achieved after spending so much government money on the so-called tri-nation energy roadshows to woo investors. The current energy team failed to devise a robust strategy to woo in foreign investors, let alone local ones. The Finance Minister, Economic Affairs Adviser and others involved in devising the plans should “show” achievements soon rather than pretending to be experts to the Prime Minister. For the sake of the nation, let alone the Awami League, these so-called “big” heads, should make way to allow experts to suggest, plan and implement visible, effective, corruption free projects that the people could benefit from before its too late. In her previous administration, Sheikh Hasina has tasted the benefit of appointing apt former bureaucrat(s) as advisers to the PMO. The country even achieved self-sufficiency in rice due to the expertise of a certain adviser working hand-in-hand with the agriculture minister. They had the right team to make the right decisions at the right time. That made the difference!

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    shamsuddin ahamed

    Energy crisis is inherited from the previous BNP government.Decisions so far taken by the present Shiek Hasina government are in right dirrection and power supply is increasing and it will improve further. Thanks to Shiek Hasina for not taking any HASTY decision regarding coal mining. We have already have experiences about underground mining and we should foresee the disasterous affects open pit mining.In West Bengal and other provinces of INDIA facing severe ARSENIC problems where open pit mine is in operation. Bangladesh also already facing the same problem which is influence of INDIAN open pit mine.People of coal deposit areas are against open pit coal mine and three persons sacrificed their lives and previos government made ageement with the people that there will be no open pit mine.Shiek Hasina expressed her soliderity with the movement and commited that no open pit mine will be established which has disasterous environmental affects on 6th september2006. Till now people demanding that they will not go anywhere leaving their forefather`s house and grave. Moreover we have to invite foreign Mining Co. to ipliment mining as we are not experienced in open pit mining. Yet there is way to get energy from all the coal deposits without disturbing land,subsurface water and environment in quiekest posible time in a cost effective way.UCG(Underground Coal Gasification)allows to utilise fully these resources from otherwise even unrecoverable coal deposits in an economically viable and environmentally safe way. Application of Drilling Technology is required to Drill wells to coal seam,one for injecting oxidents and another for receiving syngas. The advantages of this technology is low plant costs due to emerging markets of China, India and South Africa.No coal transport cost and no surface emmisions.CO2 could be captured and stored in to coal cavity after gasification.
    If Bangladesh Gov. able to take decision for UCG Within December2010 INSHALLA Bangladesh will start to produce Syngas which is good to supply to power stations and Other industries through natural gas pipe line at the end of 2013. One billion tons of coal deposit can produce 20(Twenty) TCF Syngas or 1.5 to 2 billion barrels of liquid fuels.No foreign company is required for this project. Bangladesh has experience for drilling and maintaining process plant. We can buy process plant,hire dirrectional drilling service and a Consultant to train our personals as well as to moniter CRIP(Controlled Retraction Injection Point). Imperial College of London also has program to educate professionals for successful UCG project.Plz visit
    Shamsuddin Ahamed, Former Head of Drilling,BAPEX, At present Mississauga,Canada. Tel: 905-607-5260.

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