LNG supply dearth worsens gas crisis
Dhaka city dwellers are suffering due to shortage of pipeline gas for two months and the authorities' promises to solve the problem so far appear empty.
Now, it seems people would have to live with that for the rest of the month and beyond.
Managing Director Ali Iqbal Md Nurullah of Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Ltd on January 19 told The Daily Star that they were trying to make the supply normal by next Friday (January 22).
But the shortage remained, causing city dwellers who have to cook their meals on gas stoves to suffer.
The supply disruption during winter, caused by condensate deposited in pipes, has worsened this time because of the government's reluctance to buy LNG from spot market, where prices have gone up significantly.
The spot market or cash market is a public financial market in which financial instruments or commodities are traded for immediate delivery.
Meantime, State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid have made a new promise.
He told The Daily Star yesterday they were expecting the situation to become normal "by the end of this month".
"As the price of LNG at the spot market had risen to $30 per tonne, the supply of LNG came down. We did not purchase it from the spot market as the rate was double than usual," he said.
"We have increased the LNG supply [in the last few days] and will be able to increase it up to 600 mmcfd [million cubic feet a day] by the end of this month to make the situation normal," the state minister said.
Poly Begum, a resident of Azimpur Chhapra Masjid area, said for the last one month, she had to get up at 5:00am to make breakfast for her family because the gas supply starts to drop from 7:00am every day.
There was no supply between 9:00am and 1:00pm, she said.
Her husband said, "We have to have our lunch at 5:00pm."
Many people The Daily Star talked to complained they have been facing acute gas crisis for the last couple of months and that the situation worsened last month.
Most of them are residents of East Rajabazar, Jigatola, Mohammadpur, Adabar, Bhatara, Badda, Gendaria, Turag, Uttar Khan, Dakkhin Khan, part of Mirpur, Pallabi, and some areas of Old Dhaka.
Hasan, a resident of Madarbari in Uttarkhan, said, "We have been facing an acute crisis of gas for the last one month. The pressure of gas starts dropping from 7:00am and supply cuts off completely around 9:00am. The normal flow returns around 2:00pm.
"We sometimes use a wood burning stove … ," he said.
WHAT THE OFFICIALS SAY
The country's gas demand is about 3,700 mmcfd whereas it is getting 2,800 to 2,900 mmcfd, said a Rupantarita Prakritik Gas Company Ltd (RPGCL) official.
Officials attributed the dearth of supply to the reduced import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in recent months.
The country needs at least 525 mmcfd of imported LNG to keep the supply normal.
"LNG deficit is the main problem ... it dropped to 200 mmcfd in the middle of January. We are getting 400 mmcfd for the last five days," said an official of Petrobangla (Bangladesh Oil, Gas & Mineral Corporation) yesterday preferring not to be named.
He said during the winter, condensate is deposited in pipelines and if there is not enough gas at source, the supply gets disrupted.
Nurullah, MD of Titas Gas, which distributes gas to homes in Dhaka city and serves around 28.74 lakh consumers, told The Daily Star yesterday that they had inadequate volume of gas in the system.
Another Titas official claimed they had a supply shortfall of 80 to 90 mmcfd in areas including Dhaka, Gazipur, Savar, Narayanganj, Narsingdi and Mymensingh due to technical issues of Gas Transmission Company Ltd (GTCL).
"From January 10 to January 23, we got less supply to the Titas network but since February 1, we are getting less supply due to technical glitch in GTCL," said the official.
He said they got 1,660 mmcfd on Wednesday when they were supposed to get 1,740 mmcfd. Around 200 mmcfd is used by homes.
Contacted, a GTCL official wishing not to be named said the main problem was shortage of LNG supply to the national grid.
"It has nothing to do with any technical issues. We are coordinating the supply chain with Petrobangla. Sometimes we increase gas supply for the domestic level, reducing supply to power plants and vice versa," the official said.
Md Rafiqul Islam, general manager, LNG (LNG division) of RPGCL, said they have been supplying 400 mmcfd LNG to the national grid since January 23.
He said they were receiving LNG at regular intervals from Qater and Oman as part of a long-term agreement. He said that to meet demand, they also bought LNG from spot market, which turned volatile over the last few months.
Rafiqul said LNG price went up in spot market this winter but now it has come down to $10 per tonne and a further drop is expected at the end of this month.
RPGC, the state-run agency in charge of LNG imports, cancelled orders for two consignments, each of 138,000 cubic metres of LNG, for delivery from spot market in November and December last year.