Not possible to explore deep-sea anymore

Originally posted in The Daily Star on 27 February 2022

Deep-sea gas or oil exploration in the country will not be possible anymore, as investors are looking away and the world tries to move away from fossil fuels, Prime Minister’s Energy Advisor Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury claimed at a webinar yesterday.

He said this addressing experts who expressed their concern over the ongoing gas crisis, saying that the government is more interested in importing Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) instead of exploration.

Bangladesh Energy Society (BES) organised the webinar, titled “Appropriate Fuel Mix for Sustainable Energy Security — Bangladesh Perspective”.

Deep-sea exploration is done to find and tap into deposits of oil or gas beneath the sea-bed.

Joining as chief guest, Tawfiq said the country needs investment from foreign oil companies to undertake oil or gas exploration in deep sea.

“But there’s a rising concern against fossil fuel around the world, which is why these companies will not want to make such long-term investments,” he said, citing that such an exploration will need at a least 20 years to see fruit.

“I have contacted them privately, asking whether they’d want to do it if we provided all kinds of incentives, but I didn’t get any good response,” he added.

Replying to an allegation that gas exploration in the country is stuck in limbo, he said Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited has explored 34 wells in the last five years, and it is also conducting onshore studies down the northern parts of the country.

Speaking at the session, Md Mahbub Hossain, secretary of energy and mineral resources division, said the country has a lack of infrastructure and needs big investments in the energy sector.

Dr Mohammad Tamim, dean of Buet’s Faculty of Engineering, said there should be an integrated energy and power sector master-plan.

He mentioned that the country has to pay a penalty of Tk 130 crore per month for failing to take power from Payra power plant, all because its infrastructure is not ready yet.

The cost will further escalate when Rampal power plant will come into operation, he opined.

During his keynote presentation, Khondkar Abdus Saleque (Sufi) said, “The country should keep all fuel options open, including coal, nuclear, green, hydro and solar.”

He added that an appropriate mix of them to get affordable and reliable energy has been the biggest challenge for the country.

Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) Chairperson Mahbubur Rahman said liquid fuel-based power plants are the costliest power producers, and they comprise 34 percent of the total power generation.

Despite huge efforts, it was not possible for BPDB to stop these power plants, he added.

He also noted that renewable energy, especially solar power, has good potential in the country.

But unless there is an affordable storage system available, it cannot be competitive in the market, he added.

BES president and special envoy of Climate Vulnerable Forum Abul Kalam Azad chaired the event, while former power secretary Monowar Islam conducted it.