Crisis looms in gas system security
SALEQUE SUFI, An expert in energy sector infrastructure development, planning, construction management and operation in Central and South Asia and Australia: There has been a veryfrustratingdevelopment in RLNG evacuation program recently.
The 42 inches OD about 1Km-long Karnaphuli River Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) has been abandoned as the drill strings got broken while reaming the pilot holes deep below the river bed.The failure in connecting North and South Patenga, a critical segment of the Anwara to Faujdarahat Gas Transmission pipeline,the entire LNG program of Bangladesh has become uncertain. This pipeline was designed to evacuate RLNG to national gas grid. Injection of 500 MMCFD RLNG from US Company Excellerate-owned FSRU is overdue. Another500 MMCFD RLNG from Summit Group is due to be injected by December 2018.
Failure of Karnaphuli river crossing would now restrict LNG evacuation to 250-300 MMCFD until Karnaphuli river crossing is done in alternate alignment. Finding such alignment in the congested location besides ongoing Karnaphuli river tunnel will be extremely difficult.These worksmay take up to two years at least. Gas system security of supply will continue to remain vulnerable. The present actual deficit of 1000 MMCFD would continue to grow as proven reserve of own gas would progressively deplete. No significantly large additional new gas would be added soon as BAPEX managed 108 wells drilling program by 2021 has also fallen flat. The initiatives of offshore drilling are also not achieving momentum. Energy security would continue to remain vulnerable. Gas grid would continue starving.
The initiativefor LNG import was taken in 2010. In business as usual 500 MMCFD RLNG should have been added to national gas grid by end 2013. Senior policymakers several times assured of this. After such inordinate delays, the present situation is very unfortunate. It will not be inappropriate mentioning that the entire process was managed very unprofessionally. The indemnity act for speedy power and energy supply has armed EMRD with absolute control. Bureaucrats now control and dictate Petrobangla companies in every affairs. Some 36- 52 inches pipelines are prescribed without detail techno-economic feasibility studies. High powered evaluation committee headed by EMRD officials select less experienced contractors and impose it upon gas transmission companies. Unrealistic construction schedule is imposed. Consequently less experienced contractors produce sub-standard works. Specially after very bad experience of Padma River Crossing at Pakhseey of GTCL Petrobangla and EMRD should have been extremely careful in selecting contractor for the 42-inch HDD Crossing of Karnaphuli river at a very sensitive location.
The contractor reportedly did not carry out extensive soil investigation prior to undertaking such an important HDD river crossing in a highly sensitive area. We are not sure whether GTCL also professionally checked soil investigation reports prior to approving contractors drilling program. The contractor stated of presence of hard soil during reaming. The requirement was softening the soil with continuous bentonite jetting. But the drill pipe first got stuck and then broken.All efforts of retrieving the drill string failed and works were abandoned.
We are not sure whether a right contractor with credible past proven track records was selected. We are also not sure if experiencedproject management was engaged. We have learnt that the same contractor has been awarded works for four more HDD Crossings of Faujdarhat –Feni- Bakhrabad Pipeline. This must be reviewed.
Gas System Mega Projects
Government since coming to state power in 2009 in previous term adopted several mega projects for increasing gas production and evacuating gas through expanding gas transmission networks. Experts observe that many of these were adopted without integrated planning and upon dictation of vested quarters. In almost 10 years, gas production increased from 1750 MMCFD to 2750 MMCFD (now depleted to 2600 MMCFD) many through increase of production from Chevron operated Bibiyana and Jalalabad gas fields. State-owned BAPEX enjoying exclusive rights for exploring in the onshore areas could discover some marginal gas fields most of which have already depleted. Russian Gas giant GAZPROM was engaged in controversial manner. The Uzbekistan sub contractor Ariel did very poor job in their first lot of 10 wells in Petrobangla-owned fields. They were given the job of another five wells drilling. Now they are working with BAPEX in their 108 wells drilling program. The initiatives for exploration and development are very insignificant. Apart from two new finds (yet to be confirmed through testing) in Bhola, other works are insignificant. On the other hand due to consistent use of gas of all end users and growth led to using up of about 10 TCF from 2000-2017. At the present rate,the entire reserve is set to deplete by 2031. The alarming depletion has already triggered.
In view of above,the government has adopted a program for importing LNG through setting up FSRU and land-based terminals. Most of these will be in Maheshkhali and Kutubdia. By 2025, about 4,500 MMCFD (35 million tonnes per annum) equivalent RLNG is programmed to be available. Now the failure of Karnaphuli river crossing will trigger collapse of the program. The gas grid would not be relived from chronic gas crisis soon.
RLNG evacuation from all the initiative below will not be possible excepting partial 1.5 million tonnes from Excellerate FSRU.
Professionalism Destroyed in Gas Pipeline Construction
Petrobangla companies had pride possession of excellent crafts and skills of gas pipeline construction supervision. TGTDCL was the pioneer, BGSL and GTCL inherited that. High pressure pipeline construction activities were vigorously monitored to international standards. But gradually opportunist bureaucrats and corrupt politicians systematically destroyed professionalism of the gas companies. A section of local gas pipeline contractors’ syndicates by forming clubs started dominating. These days single pipelines whether 24 inches or 42 inches OD are subdivided into several sections and awarded to contractors having little proven track records and expertise. Several sections need separate mobilization and demobilization, separate testing. Separate group of inspection teams are also essential. It becomes impossible maintaining consistent quality. Moreover, project schedule imposed is also unrealistic. Some long delivery pipeline materials like hot bends, valves and pig traps need 7-9 months to manufacture and deliver. Yet project construction schedules are dictated for 9 months or a year. Getting clear ROW often is a problem in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh,the cross-country pipelines are constructed in monsoon corridor only from November to April. In such situation some very poor quality pipelines have been constructed off late. The last section of Maheshkhali-Anwara pipeline built in marshy area may be exposed again creating unpalatable situation. The platform onshore connected with 7Km offshore line and the unsupported tie in loops may also cause problems.
Some large pipelines like Bibiyana–Dhanua and Ashuganj- Bakhrabad loop line are of very little utility now, as the promised gas supply justifying the construction of these pipelines are not there. The construction of these pipelines has created huge financial issues for GTCL. Now construction of several other large pipelines for RLNG evacuation will tell badly about GTCL.
What Can Be Done Now?
Failure in Karnaphuli river crossing has created serious problem of RLNG evacuations. Now not more than 250 MMCFD RLNG can be evacuated to Chittagong Ring Main of KGDCL. If spur lines can be built to KAFCO , CUFL and power plants at Shikalbaha from Anwara CGS, another 120-150 MMCFD RLNG can be evacuated. Butunder no circumstances the 500 MMCFD RLNG from Excellerate FSRU and another 500 MMCFD from Summit FSRU can be evacuated till Anwara CGS can be connected with the national gas grid. Finding new crossing alignment adjacent to present crossing location would be difficult. One option can be extending under construction of Maheshkhali-Anwara 42 inches OD loop line to Kalurghat area of Chittagong Ring Main and cross Karnaphuli river there. (Abridged)
This article has been printed under a syndication arrangement with energy and power.