Bangladesh: Strategy for energy swap with Myanmar under study

The government is set to sort out a strategy for the upcoming bilateral talks to quicken the implementation of the planned energy swap by importing natural gas from Myanmar for electricity generation.

A senior official concerned said the Energy and Mineral Resources Division (EMRD) under the ministry of power, energy and mineral resources (MoPEMR) will try to quantify gas to be imported from Myanmar and electricity to be exported to that country.

Both the sides will also discuss the possible routes for the energy swap, first of its kind in South Asia, he added.

A Myanmar team will visit Bangladesh soon as a follow-up meeting that took place in Myanmar last month to swap Myanmar’s natural gas with Bangladesh’s electricity to meet their growing demands.

When contacted, Prime Minister’s Adviser Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said: “We are trying to import natural gas from Myanmar and export electricity to that country on a give-and-take policy.”

Mr Chowdhury led a five-member Bangladesh delegation that held talks with the Myanmar Vice President last month over energy swap.

As per the discussion, Myanmar would supply gas to Bangladesh through a pipeline to be set up under the Naf River at Moheshkhali in Cox’s Bazar where a number of power plants would be built, meeting sources said.

Power generated from Myanmar gas would be exported to that country.

“Myanmar was very positive about the energy swap proposal,” said Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, an additional secretary of Power Division who attended the meeting.

Officials said Bangladesh is trying hard to increase supply of both natural gas and electricity to meet local demand.

Despite the crisis, around 68 per cent of the Bangladesh’s population has access to electricity which is around 33 per cent in Myanmar.

Bangladesh has planned to develop Moheshkhali Island in the Bay of Bengal as an energy hub by implementing a cluster of projects, including power plants.

The Power Division is eyeing to build several coal-fired power plants to generate around 10,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity at Moheshkhali. Bangladesh also proposed a common power grid for both the countries during the meeting.

In December 2011, Bangladesh proposed that Myanmar export gas during a meeting between Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and Myanmar President U Thein Sein.

Myanmar President then assured Bangladesh of giving preference for gas export in future subject to discovery of new gas field in its territory and availability of the reserve.

Bangladesh later in 2012 went with a new approach ‘gas-for-fertiliser swap deal’ with the Southeast Asian country to import natural gas from Myanmar to run its own gas-based fertiliser plants and export fertiliser to Myanmar, where fertiliser production is low, but the demand is high.

But it did not go ahead with the plan.

In June 2014, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her visit to China, showed interest again to import a portion of natural gas, now China is importing from Myanmar, for consumption by new industries planned to be built in a new special economic and investment zone dedicated for Chinese investors in Bangladesh, which did not move ahead.

Sources said Myanmar has natural gas reserve of around 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf) with an additional undiscovered potential of 80 tcf.

It has been exporting natural gas to Thailand and China as its domestic consumption is only around 150 billion cubic feet (bcf) per year.

But Bangladesh’s remaining natural gas reserve is around 15.31 tcf and its consumption is around 720 bcf per year. The country’s natural gas crisis is deepening as the reserve in domestic fields is depleting fast.

Myanmar’s electricity generation capacity is around 4,581 MW while Bangladesh’s electricity generation capacity is around 11,265 MW.

Source: The Financial Express

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