It is apparent that the country is going through a crisis in the supply of gas. The average daily countrywide demand for gas is estimated at 1600 mmcfd with actual production being 100 mmcfd less than that amount. The shortfall in supply is causing serious difficulties for all categories of gas users. But the industrial users are among the badly affected. Many gas-based industries in the Tongi-Gazipur industrial belt around Dhaka have been forced to run below their capacity due short supply of gas. These industries in most cases are export-oriented and their failure to produce enough is not only denying them earnings but also posing a threat to their goodwill abroad.
The country's power generation is substantially dependent on gas as the power generating units are mainly gas-fired ones. Shortage of gas is, thus, hampering power production which in turn has also created a power crisis.
The newly commissioned power generation unit at Tongi had to suspend its functioning as gas is no more supplied to it as part of an official policy to cutback supply under some sort of a gas rationing system although the same is not admitted officially. Gas supply has dwindled meanwhile to other power generating plants. Gas is also used in large quantities to produce fertilisers. But the fertiliser factories may be shut down also or their production reduced drastically in view of the gas crisis. The Cabinet's recent approval to allow import of over 0.1 million fertilisers is indicative of such a move to close down some fertiliser factories in the face of the worsening gas crisis. There was a record amount of investment in new industrial enterprises during the last two years. The operation and viability of many of them have become uncertain in the face of the non availability or inadequate availability of energy. Thus, any way one looks at it, the entire economy is facing a grave situation as a consequence of the situation that has developed in relation to the supply of gas.
According to a report in this paper, emergency activities would be undertaken to increase gas supplies by producing an extra 45 million mmcfd of gas from the Moulavibazar and Titas gas fields. But even this gas will not be added to the national grid before the end of the first quarter of the new year. The situation can only normalise fully with the going into operation of the huge Bibiana field under the control of the multinational company, Unocal. Government has issued an appeal to Unocal to start supply from the field early in the new year to mitigate the crisis situation. But Unocal authorities say that they would be in no position to supply some 300 mmcfd of gas daily from this field before 2007. This contrasts sharply with the government's position of getting supplies from Bibiana much earlier by June, 2006. However, Unocal is not to be blamed for delaying things. The multinational can certainly expedite the supply of gas from Bibiana but it appears that government itself has not done the basic work of acquiring lands for the laying of the pipelines going through Monahardi-Ashuganj and Dhanua-Savar. Experts are of the opinion that the ball is really in the government's court. If it really applies itself very hard to get the pipelines laid at the fastest, then Unocal may be in a position to supply gas from Bibiana even before the requested period in June, 2006. Therefore, the relevant ministries should be working with the desired speed to make this happen in the light of the dire predicament that the national economy has been thrown into from the gas crisis. The emergency actions would be well justified as the situation in respect of gas supply will normalise as soon as the Bibiana field is enabled to start supply of gas to the national grid.