Dim prospects for Bangladesh gas exports

Vol 6, PW 11 (31 Jul 02) People & Policy

PROSPECTS FOR EXPORTING Bangladesh gas to India have never looked bleaker.

Blame it on vested interests coming together on an ultra-nationalist platform against big brother India. Sadly, these elements have gleefully seized upon a recently submitted report of an official panel on gas reserves.

Bangladesh has, says this panel, between 12 and 15 trillion cubic feet proven gas reserves: barely sufficient for domestic needs. "At the present modest annual domestic gas demand growth rate of 2% these reserves will not last beyond 13 years." Could potential reserves be higher than proven reserves "Maybe, but we are government officials," a panel member tells PETROWATCH.

"We talk of fruits in the trees and not fruits in the air. We will go only by proven reserves." Now we have news of a non-official, 'citizens panel' being set up to assess gas reserves.

The composition of this nine-member panel indicates the kind of report it will prepare. Led by former Petrobangla chairman S.

K. M Abdullah, it comprises personalities from opposing ends of the political spectrum - all of them against gas exports.

"Most likely this panel will come up with an even lower reserves estimate of 8 trillion cubic feet," a source tells us. "Their idea is to project as low a figure as possible so there is no possibility left for exports to India,Unfortunately for supporters of gas exports, even the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party is now against the idea.

There are three main factions in the BNP: the pro-China lobby, the business lobby and the Muslim fundamentalist lobby. "The pro-China lobby and the fundamentalist lobby have come together to oppose gas exports," adds a source.

"The pro-exports business lobby is heavily outnumbered."