Foreign oil companies welcome back in Bangladesh

Vol 12, PW 18 (12 Feb 09) People & Policy

Newly elected Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wants foreign explorers to return to the country to help boost oil and gas production.

In an exclusive interview with PETROWATCH, Hasina – who became prime minister on January 4 after a landslide election victory - blamed the two preceding administrations in Bangladesh for a “complete failure to boost hydrocarbon exploration.â€‌ That’s going to change, she told this report, because domestic demand has risen sharply.

Hasina also holds the energy portfolio and unlike her two predecessors, is openly pro-India. She says she is “not opposed in principleâ€‌ to exporting gas to India, “once our own needs are metâ€‌ but that now is not the time to think of gas exports.

“Our national demand has gone up sharply,â€‌ stresses Hasina. “We’ve even been forced to look to Myanmar for gas.

â€‌ Blaming a sharp cut in domestic gas supplies for a drop in electricity production, Hasina said Bangladesh “may have to import power from India, Nepal or Bhutan.â€‌ Bangladesh’s top priority, said Hasina, is to use domestic gas for power generation.

“Huge investments are needed in exploration,â€‌ adds Hasina. “I appeal to foreign explorers, please come to Bangladesh and invest.

Once you find gas there will be no dearth of buyers.â€‌ Hasina said Bangladeshi companies would be “encouragedâ€‌ to forge alliances with foreign power companies “like Reliance Energy from India to set up power stations on a BOT (Build, Own and Transfer) basis.

â€‌ Hasina also tells this report she will move fast to resolve long-pending maritime boundary rows with India and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal and plans to use “a detailed reportâ€‌ from the country’s energy department as the basis for future discussion. “I’ve given this report to my foreign minister with clear instructions to expedite negotiations with India and Myanmar to settle this.

â€‌ Hasina believes the disputes are over some small portions of certain Bay of Bengal blocks. “Explorers can work and estimate the reserves on such blocks,â€‌ she said.

“But production should not start before the boundaries are finally demarcated.â€‌