Bangladesh to import more gas from Myanmar

The government is upbeat over a ‘visible’ win of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Myanmar’s parliamentary elections and eyeing afresh to import natural gas from that country.

“We have a fresh plan to purchase natural gas from Chinese firms which have stakes in Myanmar gas fields and are carrying it to China through the pipeline,” State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid told the FE Thursday.

He said the win of Suu Kyi could enhance co-operation between the two neighbouring countries in energy sector. It could be a new footing of regional co-operation of the neighbouring countries, he added.

Currently, a number of Chinese companies have stakes in Myanmar gas. The country, a major importer of Myanmar gas, has been carrying it through around 150-kilometre pipeline.

“We have long been trying to import natural gas from gas-rich Myanmar to meet our mounting local demand. But we are yet to reach any agreement on it,” Mr Hamid said.

Bangladesh is still interested to purchase natural gas from Myanmar directly from its gas fields, he said. “Simultaneously, we have planned to discuss the issue of purchasing Myanmar’s natural gas through Chinese firms,” he said.

A number of Chinese firms including China National Offshore Oil Corporation, or CNOOC, Sinopec are now working with Myanmar’s gas sector.

Bangladesh will also try to import refined petroleum products from Myanmar’s refinery, said the state minister.

The country has been striving to increase supplies of both natural gas and electricity to meet mounting demand.

To utilise Myanmar gas, Bangladesh has been devising different strategies, but it has yet to make much progress in this regard.

Swap of Myanmar’s natural gas with Bangladesh’s fertiliser and electricity were among several strategies to bring in Myanmar gas after halting of negotiations on tri-nation pipeline project involving India, Bangladesh and Myanmar in 2005.

The pipeline was planned to be built to carry Myanmar gas to India through Bangladesh territory.

Bangladesh, India and Myanmar inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the project in 2005. At that time, Bangladesh did not start facing energy scarcity.

The 290-km pipeline was designed to run from Rakhine to Indian states of Mizoram and Tripura, before crossing into Chittagong and back to Kolkata in India.

After six years in December 2011, Bangladesh directly proposed Myanmar to import gas during a meeting between Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina and Myanmar President U Thein Sein.

The 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 gas-based fertiliser plants and export the fertiliser output to Myanmar, where fertiliser production is low but the demand is high. But it did not go ahead.

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 moved ahead.

Bangladesh’s natural gas production is hovering around 2,700 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) against demand for over 3,200 mmcfd. Country’s natural gas crisis is looming as the reserve in domestic gas fields are depleting fast.

Source: The Financial Express

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