The ongoing gas crisis is likely to linger for at least another week as engineers are finding it difficult to fix the technical problem in an LNG supply line in Cox's Bazar.
Households and businesses across the country are experiencing supply shortages since Saturday night, when a valve of the off-shore LNG terminal at Matarbari stopped functioning properly.
Gas supply from the reservoir, which has a supply capacity of 500 million cubic feet a day (mmcfd), remains suspended since then, leaving the distribution system in chaos.
Engineer Monjurul Hoque, general manager (operations) of Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Ltd (KGDCL), said they were facing a number of challenges to mend the broken pipeline.
“The valve is 120 feet below water. Also, the water there [in Moheskhali] is murky. So it is taking time for divers to reach the supply line,” he said.
He could not say exactly long they will take to fix it. “It's hard to say. It may take seven, eight or even ten days.”
However, Engineer Md Kamruzzaman, director (operations & mines) of Petrobangla, said they would be able to solve the problem by November 15.
In the meantime, people are experiencing serious supply shortages.
“There is no gas after 8:00am until around 4:00pm. It stays for about two hours and then the pressure gets low till 9:00pm,” said Monir Hossain, a private jobholder, who lives at Adabar.
Shurovi Rozario, a resident of East Rajabazar, said she was using electric oven for cooking. She is worried about her electricity bill this month.
“Why do I have to pay the extra bill?” she asked.
Residents of Mohammadpur, Jatrabari, Mirpur, Uttara and Tongi are also affected badly.
Gas crisis is not new in the country. For years, Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited and Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Ltd -- the two distributors who are subsidiaries of Petrobangla -- have been running short of gas as demands grow.
However, the supply got a boost since August 18 when the KGDCL started feeding 300mmcfd liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a ship anchored on the Bay of Bengal through the Matarbari reservoir at Moheshkhali.
The ship carrying Bangladesh's first imported consignment of 1.37 lakh cubic feet of LNG from Qatar anchored in the Bay on April 24. Since then several deadlines had expired for gas transmission to the reservoir due to technical problems. Finally on August 18, the supply began in Chattogram.
However, there was no monitoring system in place to tackle any technical problems.
Admitting this, Petrobangla Chairman Abul Mansur Md Faizullah said, “No, no, we didn't have any plan for tackling such a glitch.
“Today [yesterday] I held a meeting with experts. A monitoring team will be formed for troubleshooting time to time and to fix such problems in future.”
In the past, the KGDCL was dependent solely on the national grid. But after the off-shore LNG terminal was launched, the dependency fell.
Of its total supply of around 390 mmcfd, some 300 mmcfd used to come form the new terminal. But since Saturday night's glitch, it is relying solely on the national grid again.
“Yesterday, we got 210 mmcfd from the national grid,” said Monjurul, the KGDL general manager, adding that many export-oriented industries in Chattogram was being badly affected by the shortage.
To ease the crisis in Chattogram, the Gas Transmission Company Ltd, another subsidiary of Petrobangla, is now supplying about 200-220 mmcfd of gas from the national grid to some 6 lakh customers, including households, in the port city. This is creating a shortfall in Dhaka and its adjacent areas.
In June last year, Titas Gas had 27.34 lakh consumers -- 21.17 lakh of them households. It distributes gas in 12 districts including Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj.
Usually, Titas can supply about 1,700 mmcfd to these districts against their demand for 2,000 mmcfd, said its Director (operations) Kamruzzaman Khan.
“But, due to the rationing [supplying to Chhattogram] we can now supply about 1,550 mmcfd to our consumers,” he said.
In Chattogram, power generation at two units of Raozan Power Plant and Shikalbaha 225 MW Power Plant has stopped because of the gas crisis. Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Limited and several CNG fuelling stations have also been experiencing timid gas pressure, reports our local correspondent.