When natural gas was discovered in Shahbazpur of Bhola two decades ago, everyone thought the energy- and job-starved island would flourish, but despite various efforts almost no major changes came to make that dream come true.
However, things are finally set to take a giant leap as a 195-megawatt power plant is scheduled to begin partial operation in December. The full plant is likely to be operational in August next year.
This would make this island rich with availability of natural gas and power and an attractive destination for investment, said a Power Development Board (PDB) high official.
“A number of agencies are working simultaneously to empower Bhola. The projects cover gas production to future transmission of power to Barisal,” said Harun ur Rashid, PDB project director of the Bhola power project.
Bapex, which discovered Shahbazpur gas field in 1994, runs two producing gas wells. It has completed drilling a third well amid positive results. It would complete testing this well in a week and begin working on drilling a fourth. The Bapex is also installing a gas processing plant.
The Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB) is installing a high voltage 65-kilometre power transmission line across the river from Bhola to Borhanuddin Island up to Barisal. Although the PGCB is one year behind schedule, it would be able to energise a transformer to distribute power across Bhola by December.
“By the end of this year, we will have 130MW power from simple cycle operation of the plant. This power will be available in the national grid by February as the PGCB would by then complete its transmission line,” said the project director.
Of this power, 60MW would be available for Bhola, which currently consumes around 20-23MW power.
The Shahbazpur field remains underutilised, as its gas could not be transmitted to the mainland because of difficulties in installing a pipeline in the Meghna river, which is very wide around Bhola.The government's past bids to utilise the gas also were not much successful. A few years ago a 35MW rental power plant was installed there, but it could neither produce optimal power nor operate regularly.
However, following installation of the rental plant, local investors went for setting up three automatic brick manufacturing plants and a fish feed manufacturing plant.
Since 2009, the government has tried to install a 200MW plant through three rounds of tenders and awarding contracts to three companies. But the first two companies ultimately backtracked from the project.
Two years ago the government awarded a third contract to Chinese company China Chenga to build this plant for Tk 2,000 crore.
“We are on track. This plant will need 30 to 32 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) gas. If Bapex finds gas through drilling a fourth well in Shahbazpur, the government will go for a second Bhola power plant,” said Harun ur Rashid.