Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Australian energy firm struck gas reserve in Bangladesh offshore

Energy activists protest contracts to energy giants
SALEEM SAMAD

AN AUSTRALIAN energy corporation has struck huge gas reserves in off shore Bay of Bengal, which is commercially viable.

The president of Santos Bangladesh John Chambers briefed journos on Wednesday that they are confident to start supplying gas from the reserve from the first week of April.

John Chambers, said that the Aussie company will be able to quantify Sangu-11's reserves in the next couple of weeks when necessary assessments are completed.

From the new well in shallow water block 37.2 miles from the Bangladesh coast, at least 25-30 million cubic feet of gas per day will be available for Chittagong's energy starved industrial customers within March – April, the official added.

For the second time, commercially viable gas reserves have been found in offshore Bangladesh, following the previous discovery by the U.K's Cairn Energy in 1996. Cairn, the previous operator of the Sangu field, found gas in the same block.

Unlike other energy giants globally, Santos has agreements to sell gas from its well to private consumers at market price, the Santos official said. The Aussie company has already received expressions of interest from over a dozen large privately owned companies in Chittagong to buy gas at market price due to a growing gas shortage in the country.

The energy crunch has forced Petrobangla, state energy regulatory agency to suspend new gas connections to industries since July 2009, squeezing industrial growth. Gas rationing is widespread and CNG filling stations are closed four hours a day. Bangladesh economy is entirely dependent on gas and electricity for production of the huge export industries.

Earlier, energy activists have been protesting the government ink a deal with Santos and other American energy giants for allowing them to sell gas privately, which they term is anti-nationalism, said its leader Professor Anu Mohammad of a state university.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow, is an award winning investigative reporter based in Bangladesh. He specializes on Islamic extremism, forced migration, good governance, press freedom and elective democracy. He was detained, tortured in 2002 and later expelled in 2004 for whistle-blowing of the safe sanctuaries of the Jihadist leaders in Bangladesh who fled during Anglo-US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Ending his life in exile from Canada he has recently returned home after six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com