Dr Ijaz Hossain is involved with teaching profession for the past 40 years. At present he is a Professor with Chemical Engineering Department of Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET).
He is primarily involved with research works on energy and power sector and has been providing advices on this to both government and private sectors.
This energy expert has talked extensively about the present and future energy and power situation with energynewsbd.com Editor Aminur Rahman.
energynewsbd.com: The primary energy source of Bangladesh is natural gas, half of which is being supplied by US oil company Chevron. Chevron has recently made arrangement to sell its Bangladesh operation to a Chinese consortium. What is your opinion on this issue?
Ijaz Hossain: This is certainly not good news because we are extremely dependent on supply from Bibiyana gas field, which is a difficult field to manage. Chevron has managed it very well using the best technology and knowledge available. We have to wait and see how well the new company manages Bibiyana. Moreover, Bibiyana is projected to decline in production. This needs to be managed well, otherwise we may lose this field very early.
energynewsbd.com: How serious and responsible do you think the government is in managing the on-shore gas fields and finding new structures?
Ijaz Hossain: Despite giving Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Limited (BAPEX) all support, no new large structures have been found. At the same time international Oil Companies (IOCs) have been barred from on-shore exploration. All these point to very poor management and decision making with regard to on-shore reserves and resources.
energynewsbd.com: For constructing the Liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and to increase the usage of LNG, the government has signed two agreements with two different companies. It wants to sign more agreements with other companies. Do you think the government is in a right track in doing this?
Ijaz Hossain: No, absolutely not. LNG is a very expensive fuel. Much greater thought and planning is needed before introducing LNG into Bangladesh market. The impact of the high gas price on all sectors should be studied properly and the market for primary fuel should be totally opened up and made completely tax free.
energynewsbd.com: To mitigate the electricity demand, the government has opted for electricity import. How effective it will be for ensuring energy security?
Ijaz Hossain: Up to a point this is good for the country, but if it exceeds 25% of the total, then two issues arise. First, it will imply overly dependence on another country for a vital commodity. This cannot be good. Instability in that country can disrupt supply. The good relations prevailing now may be hampered for some time in the future.
Second, Bangladesh is losing out on value addition opportunity to generate the power in the country. Power generation is a safe and lucrative business involving millions of dollars. If this business can be kept in the country it will provide jobs and other spin-off benefits.
energynewsbd.com: The summer season is here and there has been no news of large scale load-shedding. Do you think the government has succeeded in staving off the electricity crisis for the consumers?
Ijaz Hossain: Yes, to a great extent this is true. Urban areas may be free from load-shedding but rural areas are continuing to suffer long hours of power outages. Lately we hear excuses such as it is fault of the distribution lines and sub-stations. If this is true then improving the transmission and distribution infrastructure along with generation is the responsibility of the government. A good power system means generation, transmission and distribution.
We must also remember that it has not been that hot this year. When the real hot season is upon us, we have to see how well the government tackles the situation. Moreover, there have been complaints of low voltages and unreliable power. Industries are suffering greatly as a result of this.
energynewsbd.com: The government has taken an initiative of providing electricity to every household. What will be your advice if the government takes a similar initiative of providing Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to each and every household? Do you think it’s feasible? If so, how?
Ijaz Hossain: I do not understand how this will be done. At the present moment, LPG is controlled by the private sector. Therefore, first, the government will have to develop its own infrastructure and capacity to acquire and distribute LPG. Then, comes the pricing. If subsidy is not given, most households will not be able to afford LPG. If subsidy is given to every single household, I believe it will greatly strain the nation budget.