Factories in Chattogram, which have long been operating at below capacity because of inadequate gas supplies, are now breathing a sigh of relief thanks to the availability of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Some 450-480 million cubic feet (MMCF) of LNG is being added to the national grid every day since the middle of August last year as per the supplier, Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company (KGDCL).
Of the amount, the Chattogram region has been getting 250-300 MMCF and the rest of the country 200-230 MMCF, said Anupam Dutta, KGDCL's manager (customer and maintenance).
Previously, Chattogram would get 200-220 MMCF of gas.
“I hope the gas shortages would become a thing of the past for Chattogram,” said Mizanur Rahman, director of Ratanpur Steel Re-Rolling Mills, whose plant has been a beneficiary of the development.
The factory had to stay shut at least four times on an average every year for two to seven days for gas shortage.
“The LNG supplies have jumpstarted our production,” he added.
Like Ratanpur Steel Re-Rolling Mills, Raozan Thermal Power Station, Chattogram Urea Fertiliser, newly installed Abul Khair Power Plant, Karnaphuly Fertiliser, United Power Plant, Regent Power Plant and various steel factories have generously benefitted from the government move to import LNG from Qatar.
The LNG imports began in September last year. To date, 15 shipments have arrived.
The liquid is being converted to gas by a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) in Moheshkhali operated by American company Excelerate and pumped ashore.
KGDCL provides supplies to about 598,000 residential consumers alongside 75 compressed natural gas refuelling stations and about 3,000 industrial and commercial entities.
The cost per cubic feet is Tk 9.10 for households and Tk 17.04 for commercial units. The gas crisis has been mitigated by the LNG to some extent as some plants are yet to get the supplies, said Mahabubul Alam, president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Chattogram needs 450 MMCF per day to run productions and the crisis would end within three months given the plan taken by the government, he added.
A second FSRU, operated by Summit Corp with Japan's Mitsubishi Corp as a partner, is expected to start operations by the end of March. Rupantarita Prakritik Gas, which supervises LNG distribution, already hopes to take supplies to 500 MMCF by February's end with the existing FSRU.
The supplies are expected to reach 1,000 MMCF once the second FSRU starts functioning, according to Rafiqul Islam, general manager of Rupantarita Prakritik Gas.
Some five land-based LNG terminals are also under construction and once executed it will be able to fulfil all the demand for gas, including that from Chattogram, he said.