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Dhaka Tribune

BEZA to China: Bring your own gas

Update : 07 Oct 2015, 07:08 PM

The prime minister has asked the executive chairman of the economic zones authority to request the Chinese authorities to supply their two proposed economic zones in Bangladesh with gas imported on their own initiative from the Myanmar-China gas pipeline, sources said.

On September 15, at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec), the prime minister asked the chairman to persuade the Chinese authorities to buy gas from the pipeline, which is owned by companies from four countries, to meet local needs.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she hoped Chinese investors would persuade their government to import Myanmar gas to fuel their industries in the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA).

Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) Paban Chowdhury said: “I informed Chinese Ambassador Ma Mingqiang about the request in front of the prime minister at the Prime Minister’s Office.”

Paban said: “The issue is a diplomatic matter since it is not just the Chinese and Myanmar governments that are involved but also pipeline stakeholders India and South Korea, who will have to agree to the use of the pipeline.”

“We will try our best to convince the Chinese to import gas from the China-Myanmar pipeline,” he added.

Paban said Bangladesh had separately approached Myanmar about setting up EPZs along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border that would be fuelled by Myanmar gas, but the talks were inconclusive.

Paban assured the Dhaka Tribune that there would be no crisis of electricity or gas in the 41 proposed economic zones across the country.

But an Energy Division official said that without the discovery of a new gas well, the crisis of gas supply to industrial areas would likely continue.

The official, who asked not to be named, said Chittagong division’s gas crisis was now acute. The demand for gas in Chittagong district is 500 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) whereas the supply of gas is just 228 mmcfd.

Bangladesh currently has the capacity to generate around 2,718 mmcfd of gas while demand ranges from 2,800 to 3,200 mmcfd, leaving a gas shortfall of roughly 500 mmcf each day, according to Petrobangla data.

At the meeting where the gas supply issue was raised, the Ecnec approved a project titled “Acquisition of Land for Development of Anwara II Economic Zone” which will require some Tk420 crore to implement. BEZA is scheduled to complete the project by June 2016.

The government has already selected two plots measuring 341 and 3,122 hectares in Chittagong district’s Anwara and Mirsarai upazilas, respectively, for Chinese investors.

The proposed name for the project is “Chinese Economic and Industrial Zones.” Paban told the Dhaka Tribune that Chinese investors had said they were planning to invest $2 billion in the economic zone.

The move to set up an exclusive economic zone came after the prime minister’s visit to China last year. BEZA signed an agreement with the Chinese Commerce Ministry in this regard.

In July 2013, the Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipeline began supplying gas to China.

China National Petroleum Corporation has a 50.9% stake in the project. South Korean firms Daewoo and Korean Gas Corporation hold 25.04% and 4.17%, respectively, while two India’s Gas Authority of India Limited and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation hold 4.17% and 8.35%, respectively.

The 793 kilometre pipeline cost an estimated $2 billion. Myanmar expects to earn revenues of $30 billion over the next 30 years from the project, according to media reports.

According to the Energy and Power Division official, an initiative taken 10 years ago to channel gas from Myanmar to India through Bangladesh under a tri-nation pipeline never materialised because Dhaka did not agree to New Delhi’s conditions.

Several months ago, Bangladesh Deputy High Commissioner to India Salahuddin Noman Chowdhury told the media: “Official talks on a Bangladesh-India-Myanmar gas pipeline will begin soon.” 

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