Equipment import delay threatens Barapukuria coal production

Originally posted in The Business Standard on 14 May 2022

Dollar crisis causes delay in opening of LC for import; North may face power disruption

Photo: UNB

Coal production at the Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Limited is likely up against a four-month halt because of a delay in equipment import from China for the next production phase.

A pause in coal extraction could affect power generation at the adjacent coal-fired power plant as the plant does not have enough reserves of fuel to ensure a smooth supply for four months. Besides, any interruption at the Barapukuria coal power plant will also disrupt electricity supply in the northern part of the country in the ongoing steamy weather.

The Barapukuria Coal Mine Company was recently producing coal from phase No 1,310 of the mine, with daily production being around 2,000 to 2,200 tonnes, even though production was supposed to be around 5,000 tonnes a day, said sources at the company.

Production at the phase was closed on 1 May, but phase No 1,306 – which is scheduled to go into production next and was supposed to be prepared for production by now – is not ready for production as yet. In fact, preparation work on it is yet to begin.

Usually, it takes two and a half months to prepare a phase for production.

Engineer Md Kamruzzaman Khan, managing director of Barapukuria Coal Mine Company, however, says complexities over equipment import have already been resolved and that the company is working to have the next phase get underway at the earliest possible time.

“The complexity was related to the opening of the LC [letter of credit]. Pubali Bank was supposed to open the LC in February, but it could not because of a crisis of dollars. Later, we approached Agrani Bank and it agreed.

“Now we are looking to start production in the next phase from the middle of August,” he tells The Business Standard.

Asked if the mine has the required reserves to last until the start of the next phase of production, Kamruzzaman says, “At present, there is a reserve of around 2.20 lakh tonnes of coal, which will be enough.”

But SM Wazed Ali Sarkar, chief engineer at the Barapukuria coal-based thermal power plant, contradicts and is worried.

“We do not have reserves for four months. The coal producing company should reduce the shifting time,” he tells TBS.

North may face power supply disruption

In 2018, electricity production at the Barapukuria coal power plant was suddenly suspended due to shortage of coal. The plant had remained shut for more than a month until coal supply resumed.

At the time, the North, particularly Rangpur, Dinajpur and Rajshahi, faced load shedding and low voltage.

So, if coal production at the Barapukuria mine remains suspended for four months, power generation at the thermal plant may go off, causing a massive disruption in electricity supply in the region in this hot summer.