Govt yet to decide on resumption of gas to fertiliser factoriesManjurul Ahsan
The government is yet to decide its priority in gas supply, whether it will continue the suspension of gas supply to fertiliser factories or divert a part of the gas that it is supplying for power generation to them, said officials.
They said that the state minister for power and energy, Md Enamul Huq, at an inter-ministry meeting on Sunday instructed Petrobangla and Power Development Board to settle the dispute.
The state minister, however, refused to make any comment on the issue.
In the meeting Petrobangla, the state-run oil, gas and mineral resources corporation, proposed to resume gas supply to KAFCO and Ashuganj fertiliser factories from August 8, and to Urea Fertiliser Factory and Palash Urea Fertiliser Factory at Narsingdi in the next 15 days.
The Karnaphuli Fertiliser Company Ltd (KAFCO) in Chittagong is a joint-venture company of Bangladesh, Japan, Denmark and the Netherlands, and the other three factories are owned by the government.
The four factories have a combined demand of around 63 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year which they use to produce more than 1.6 million tonnes of urea per annum.
The government in March suspended gas supply to the fertiliser factories to divert more gas for power generation for boro rice irrigation.
An official of the Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation, which runs the state-owned fertiliser factories, said that at least 40 per cent of the urea production target in the four factories would not be achieved in the calendar year due to gas supply suspension for around five months.
But the government sticks to its previous decision on the plea that electricity generation will drop significantly if it allows resumption of gas supply to the fertiliser factories by diverting a portion of gas from electricity generation.
Petrobangla’s chairman Hossain Monsur told New Age that a committee, headed by Petrobangla’s director of operations, had been formed to decide which sources would supply additional gas.
Replying to a question Monsur said, ‘We produced 2,239 million cubic feet of gas yesterday. The production will be increased with more consumption.’
But that will not be sufficient for meeting the entire demand for power and fertiliser production, he added.
When asked, PDB’s chairman Md Abdul Wahab Khan said, ‘We have limited resources (of natural gas). So the issue is to ensure efficient utilisation of the resources.’
However, a Petrobangla official said that the government was giving priority to electricity generation on political grounds.
‘Despite having shortage of production against demand Petrobangla, as a major primary fuel supplier, has the responsibility to supply gas to all of its consumers through distribution management,’ he said.
Apart from this, Petrobangla will have to take the responsibility for the long interruption in fertiliser production due to shortage of gas supply.
Finance minister AMA Muhith on July 30 also complained that industries were not getting gas though production has increased.
At present, Petrobangla produces more than 2,200 mmcf of gas a day with a daily shortage of 500 mmcf.
Petrobangla supplies around 1,000 mmcfd gas for electricity generation.
Against the backdrop of a severe gas shortage, the government for a few years has diverted gas to power plants from fertiliser factories on the grounds that ‘it is cheaper to import urea than fuel oil for electricity generation.’
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