Bangladesh needs to expedite extensive exploration for natural gas and rational planning for its utilisation for sustainable and cost-effective supply of the primary fuel to industries in the future, say experts.
Terming natural gas very cost-effective for industries, they told a webinar on Saturday industries also use Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) due to natural gas supply shortage, but the volume is very low because of higher prices.
Presenting the keynote at the webinar arranged by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), Petrobangla former director Kohondkar Saleque Sufi said LNG and LPG would be the future fuel for industries in Bangladesh.
He urged the government to create an appropriate fuel utilisation plan.
Gas exploration at present is not enough, he said. "To ensure sustainable primary fuel supply, we need to accelerate gas exploration in off-shore and on-shore areas."
As a panel discussant, Professor Dr M Shamsul Alam, dean of the faculty of engineering at Daffodil International University, said Bangladesh has to be competitive in terms of energy prices.
"Energy supply availability is not only limited to energy sustainability. Ownership and affordability are also part of sustainability, but they are not in the government's plan. Rather, the government is more active in hiking prices," he said.
He recommended rationalising energy prices by reducing irrational intermediary costs.
Md Anisur Rahman, senior secretary to the Energy and Mineral Resources Division who was the chief guest at the event, also agreed that the country needs to focus on local gas exploration first.
"Our onshore gas exploration capacity is quite satisfactory, but we still encourage foreign explorers for offshore (deep sea) exploration," he said.
Md Maqbul-E-Elahi Chowdhury, a member (gas) of the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission, said, "We have to strengthen the Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company (Bapex) for gas exploration. If needed, we have to allow foreign explorers to come here."
In his welcome address, DCCI President Rizwan Rahman highlighted the importance of energy for a country's economic and industrial development.
He said Bangladesh needs to put more focus on importing and producing alternative fuels like LPG and LNG alongside natural gas exploration in order to accelerate industrial growth in a planned and more environment-friendly way.
The government needs to expedite establishing LPG and LNG terminals and their network infrastructure alongside a long-term roadmap for the sector's sustainable development, he said.
"In addition, considering the rising demand for LPG, bottling and storage facilities need to be installed under the public-private partnership model. How tariff is set on these fuels needs to be readdressed holistically to prioritise the rational cost of living," he added.
Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said gas is very important for the clothing industry and also the backward linkage industry that includes textile, spinning, dyeing, and finishing.
He said 7-8% of the country's total gas supply is used in the apparel sector, which is very low in terms of contribution to the economy.
LPG or LNG could be a short-term solution for the apparel industry, but strategic priority is something else, he added.
Aameir Alihussain, managing director at BSRM, emphasised controlling system loss and increasing energy efficiency.
He said the private sector should not depend on a single fuel. "We need to focus on fuel diversification and energy mix."
Gas distribution in the western part of the country is not up to the expected level and this impedes industrialisation there, he added.
Among others, Md Shahriar Ahmed Chowdhury, assistant professor and director at the Centre for Energy Research at United International University, DCCI Senior Vice President NKA Mobin, its former director Nuher L Khan, Director Arman Haque, and Convenor Malik Talha Ismail Bari spoke at the webinar.
The DCCI president chaired and moderated the event.