July 16, 2008

Bangladesh Gas Field Fire Causing 60,000-Dollar Daily Loss – Paper

Text of report headlined "Gas worth 60,000 dollars being wasted daily: Titas gas leakage not stopped in five years" by Bangladeshi newspaper Jai Jai Din on 11 July

[by Rashed Hossain]

The fear or danger in the country's biggest gas field named "Titas Gas Field" is increasing gradually. The gas leakages that developed in the field, adjoining canal and water bodies at the end of 2006, could not be repaired during the last five years. Energy experts fear a big disaster in the national gas grid may take place any time if the gas from the Titas Gas Field continues to flow out through these leakages.

Prof Dr Hossain Mansur, eminent geologist and former chairman of Petrobangla, in a research paper entitled "Bangladesh's Energy Resources: Management and Security" described these leakages in the Titas Gas Field as a real example of mismanagement of the government or the company. He said because of this the country's biggest gas field Titas has reached to the brink of destruction. Nearly two decades ago, due to the inefficiency or negligence of an official of Petrobangla [despite knowing that problems can be developed in the future], gas is leaking out from the hole developed by the side of the production well for the last five years. And this has taken a serious turn for the last two years. According to an estimate of the expert officials of the company, nearly 20m cubic ft gas is blowing out through that hole daily. The government buys 20m cubic ft gas from foreign companies at a price of 60,000 dollars or 4.2m taka.

In that research report, Dr Hossain Mansur further said even if the past years were kept out, according to this estimate, there had been gas wastage worth 3,076m taka [45m dollars] only in the last two years. In the meantime, even by bringing foreign experts, after spending 9m dollars or 630m taka, who worked in the number nine well, it could not be possible to stop the leakage. Getting late by one day in stopping this leakage means the wastage of gas worth 4.2m taka. This is destroying the Titas Gas Field and posing a threat to the security of lives and properties of the people in the area.

On the cause of the gas leakage in Titas, Prof Dr Tamim -- special assistant to the chief adviser in charge of energy, power and mineral resources ministry, said the gas leaking from the faulty number three well was deposited on the upper layer of sand. Since this process has been continuing for a long time, a substantial quantity of gas had been deposited. It will take six months to one year time to ascertain if the gas leakage will be stopped because of the closure of the number three well. He said to find out whether there were gas leakages from wells number four, 10, and 14, there would be work on those wells, and the national organization Bapex [Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited] would do that.

Dr Tamim stated this to journalists after a meeting with the officials of Bangladesh Titas Gas Company held at the conference room of the ministry recently. The meeting discussed in detail on that gas field, including the number three well of Titas. He further said all the wells of Titas would be examined. The government has sought 100m dollars' financial and technical assistance from the Asian Development Bank for the examination of all wells of Titas. Besides, four new wells will be dug in the gas field.

Dr Tamim further said: "Gas was leaking out from 20-25 points of Titas field. But the quantity is not very big. Since gas is very important to us, so, it is necessary to examine the entire gas field."

Dr Badrul Imam, eminent geologist and professor in the Geology Department of Dhaka University, said in this regard that a patient who was in a critical condition should not be kept in an ordinary ward, rather it was necessary to take him to the intensive care unit for treatment. Is there is no provision in the government policy to take emergency measures to tackle this precarious situation in an important resource like Titas Gas Field? Who will take the responsibility if there is any disaster in the gas field while taking steps crossing the barrier of traditional rules? Concerned experts say, it cannot be identified yet from where gas was leaking through the earth... The well numbers three, nine, eight, and 10 are in the list of suspected wells. According to sources, the well number three was dug by Shell Oil in 1969, and since adequate casing was not done at that time and breaches developed on the inside cement of the well which is being suspected as the cause behind the gas leakage.

Again, the information, like the cementing work, was not done properly in the well number 10, dug in 1988, before going into production gave rise to the doubt that this might be the main root of the problem. Some experts think that the well adjacent to the land from where gas is leaking is the cause of the problem. Some others, however, think that this is not correct, there are problems in a number of wells. So, all the wells have to be examined one after another and repaired. Because of this, the problem is complicated, and it will take time to solve.

In his research paper entitled "It is Necessary to Take Emergency Steps in Titas Gas Field," Prof Dr Badrul Imam described the Titas Gas Field as the most precious gas field. With nearly 5.2 cubic ft deposit, this biggest gas producing field produces nearly 430m cubic ft gas daily, which constitutes nearly 42 per cent of the local companies' daily production. In the event of any disaster in this gas field, it will amount to the destruction of the main pillar of the country's gas production.

It has already been estimated that the cost of wastage and leakage of gas through breaches in the soil during the last few years will be nearly 2bn taka [29m dollars]. Real progress is yet to be achieved in identifying the problem of gas leakage in the gas field and its solution. If the government fails to take immediate measures on a priority basis to face this crisis, then the situation will reach a stage where nothing can be done.

Originally published by Jai Jai Din, Dhaka, in Bengali 11 Jul 08, pp 1, 15.

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