India-Bangladesh Oil Pipeline: Dev work 90% complete, officials say
Diesel imports from Numaligarh Refinery Limited in India's Golaghat district to an oil depot in Parbatipur upazila of Dinajpur will likely begin at the end of the year if the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline is completed on time, according to project officials.
Md Tipu Sultan, project director of the nearly 130-kilometre transnational pipeline, said almost 90 per cent of the construction has been completed so far.
Besides, development of five sectionalising valve (SV) stations have also been completed.
The SVs, which are used to isolate sections of a pipeline during emergencies such as leakage, have been placed around 30 kilometres apart from each other, he added.
However, development work on the project is currently at a standstill due to rain.
On the other hand, construction of a buffer storage tank at the oil depot of the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) in Parbatipur upazila is ongoing at a normal pace.
Bangladesh currently imports around 2,200 tonnes of diesel each month from Numaligarh Refinery through the West Bengal Railway and the BPC carries the fuel through Bangladesh Railway to the Parbatipur oil depot
Once complete, the new tank will add 29,000 tonnes to the depot's existing 15,000-tonne storage capacity.
Construction of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline commenced through a formal inauguration in March 2020.
The completed pipeline will help ensure a stable supply of diesel in all 16 northern districts under Rangpur and Rajshahi, facilitating quick fuel transportation at a minimum cost in the region.
At present, imported diesel is supplied to two BPC oil depots, namely the Parbatipur oil depot and Baghabari oil depot in Sirajganj, through wagons and trawlers from the Chattogram and Mongla ports, officials said.
Currently, it costs about $8 to transport each barrel of fuel from the port city, making it a time-consuming and costly affair.
But the rate would drop to around $5 per barrel if the diesel supply starts through the pipeline as it will then take just one hour for the fuel to reach Parbatipur instead of the couple of days needed at present, they added.
Considering all these aspects, the government had taken the initiative to import diesel from Numaligarh Refinery Limited to ensure uninterrupted fuel supply in northern districts.
The governments of India and Bangladesh eventually signed a deal to this end with the project costing an estimated Tk 520 crore.
Of the amount, India is paying Tk 303 crore while Bangladesh is funding the rest.
The project was initially set for completion by June this year.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi had earlier laid the foundation stone via videoconferencing on September 18, 2018.
After 17 months of signing the contract, the first shipment of 22-inch diameter pipes arrived in Bangladesh through Benapole Land Port in February 2020. Officially, work on the pipeline started in early March the same year.
Numaligarh Refinery Limited of India and Meghna Petroleum Limited of Bangladesh are jointly implementing the project, officials said.
Of the 130-kilometre stretch, just 5 kilometres of the pipeline is in India. Of the remainder, 82 kilometres are in Panchagarh, 35 kilometres in Dinajpur and the rest are in the Nilphamari and Badarganj upazilas of Rangpur.
Md Masudur Rahman, managing director of Meghna Petroleum, told The Daily Star that more than 90 per cent of the work is complete and the remainder will be done after the end of the monsoon season.
However, he refused to give any set date for the start of diesel imports.
Sources say that a tentative date would be set by a joint meeting between officials of Numaligarh Refinery and Meghna Petroleum after the project is complete.
Through the pipeline, around one million tonnes of diesel can be imported from India to Bangladesh each year.
Initially, Bangladesh will purchase around 2.5 lakh tonnes of diesel and the volume will be increased up to 4 or 5 lakh tonnes in the following years.
Under the contract, Bangladesh will import diesel for 15 years from the day supply begins.
Bangladesh currently imports around 2,200 tonnes of diesel each month from Numaligarh Refinery through the West Bengal Railway and the BPC carries the fuel through Bangladesh Railway to the Parbatipur oil depot before it is supplied at the consumer level.