Country to miss another yr in hydrocarbon exploration
When the country is experiencing nagging energy crisis, it is going to miss another year in exploring hydrocarbon in the offshore because of the government's indecision.
Normally, hydrocarbon exploration is conducted in the sea during the dry season because of favourable weather condition. The dry season ends in April.
According to official sources, the government has neither cancelled nor approved the tender proposal of the foreign oil companies qualified under the 3rd round international gas block bidding that the state-owned hydrocarbon corporation Petrobangla invited in 2008 during the caretaker government.
However, the 3rd round bidding had failed to attract any oil majors like Shell, Mobil or Chevron because of the government's conservative pricing of gas.
The 3rd round bidding proposed the gas price about US$ 4.5 per 1000 cubic feet (mcf) as against the international price of about US$ 6-9 per mcf. The present gas price is US$ 3.5 per mcf which was set in second round bidding in 1998.
The energy sector experts said offshore exploration involved huge investment for which it demands a relatively higher price than the price offered for onshore gas.
In the 3rd round bidding, the government invited tender for a total of 28 blocks, but foreign companies bid for only 15 blocks and finally offers for only 9 blocks from two companies was found to be valid.
Just two IOCs, US-based Conoco Philip qualified for 8 blocks and the Irish Tallow offered for one block. All the offers were found to be single one and there was no other competitor in each block.
While inviting tender, the caretaker government had targeted to complete the tender evaluation process and award contracts by September 2008 and finally start exploration by October 2008 to utilise the dry season of that year.
But none of the targets was achieved, as the caretaker government did not dare to approve the single bid.
The policymakers left the matters to the elected Awami League-led alliance government to make final decision on acceptance or rejection of the bids.
The present government also did not make any decision in last 2 and half months for which the country had to miss the current year's dry season for exploration.
According to official sources, the government policymakers are also in a dilemma with the offers of lone bidders.
The sources said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked her adviser Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury to examine the merit of the 3rd round bidding.
It is likely that he will submit his observation report soon to the prime minister who is also in-charge of the power and energy ministry.