Transparency needs to be ensured in LNG terminal deal
That Petrobangla — the state-sponsored corporation to explore and extract oil, gas and mineral resources — is likely to award the contract for building a floating LNG terminal at Moheskhali in the Bay of Bengal to a US company —Astra Oil and Excelerate Energy — without knowing the company’s investment and technical details in particular is unacceptable. According to a New Age report on Wednesday, even an Energy Division official termed ‘incomplete’ the company’s proposals on which Petrobangla gave a presentation on Monday. Besides, as he is quoted to have commented further, the facilities the firm sought, including an equipment procurement contact fee and credit support, are not clear. Notably, with an acute shortage of gas, the incumbent government decided to import liquefied natural gas soon after it had assumed office in 2009 to ensure adequate gas supply, especially, to the power plants and industries in Chittagong. Accordingly, Petrobangla floated a tender in November 2010 to build the terminal with the capacity to handle five million tonnes of LNG a year, convert LNG into 500 million cubic feet gas a day and complete berthing and mooring facilities for ships carrying LNG. Also, it short-listed four out of 10 international companies, including the one in question that submitted expressions of interests in 2011. However, none of the four companies responded to the following call made by Petobangla seeking the submission of their bids for the construction of the terminal although the latter deferred the bid submission date four times that year. Apparently, the firms thought that it would be impossible to complete the project in the stipulated one year and a half. Meanwhile, Petrobangla reportedly later went through ‘a long negotiation process’ to find the firm at hand ‘qualified.’
It is beyond debate that the country has to have the LNG project, which is crucial for not only easing its mounting energy crisis but also diversifying its energy sources, as soon as possible. But it is also true that the whole process involving the project must be done in a transparent and efficient manner. It is all the more important as the selection of the firm to be tasked with the implementation of the project is critical for ensuring consumers at least affordable service from the project. It cannot be denied that the energy sector deemed lucrative by the international companies have so far found a number of deals which have given rise to questions among the conscious quarters at large, not to mention experts. Not only that, some of those dubious projects had to face even huge public protests in recent years.
The top brass of Petrobangla are well advised to address the concerns already raised before awarding the company the huge contract. At the same time, the government also needs to oversee the matter to dispel any controversy over the deal.
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