Sidhirganj Power Plant to Launch with Gas Crisis Unsolved
Sunday, 14 February 2010

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to inaugurate the first of two 120MW units at a new power plant in Sidhirganj on Sunday, but without any permanent solution to a critical gas shortage.

Project director Rahmat Ullah Ahmed told on Saturday that although the unit was set to formally launch commercial production, a concrete long-term answer to the gas crisis is nowhere in sight.

"The government has instead decided to prioritise Sidhirganj by cutting gas supply to other power plants," Ahmed said.

The 240 MW power plant, if both units eventually operate at full capacity, could meet the entire demand of Mymensingh zone and still contribute to the national grid.

But that prospect is in doubt because test production since November at the first of the plant's two units stalled due to severe gas crisis.

During the test production period the test unit produced up to its maximum limit whenever the required gas supply was available.

"But we were forced to suspend operations whenever the gas pressure went down," the project director added.

When completed the plant's total output at 240MW will easily meet the full demand of any one of Mymensingh (200MW), Sylhet (198MW) or Rangpur (175MW) zones and still add power to the national grid, he said.

Bangladesh is in the midst of a serious power crisis plaguing the economy as well as causing untold miseries to consumers who constitute only about half the country's population. At present, more than 50 percent of the population still lack access to electricity.

This is the first power plant to be inaugurated by Hasina after her government took office in January 2009 with a pledge to solve the electricity crisis.

The arrangements, including funding arrangement and tendering, were completed by the previous BNP-led alliance government during its last tenure, whjile the caretaker government awarded the contract for implementation in January 2007.

The Tk 1,133 crore contract went to Bharat Heavy Electronics Limited for engineering, procurement and construction of the plant.

The project has been implemented by the Electricity Generation Company of Bangladesh, a newly created state entity under the Power Development Board. Asian Development Bank has assisted to the tune of Tk 769.048 crore ($109.86 million).

The Sidhirganj plant was originally expected to generate power during the peak hours only, about eight hours daily, when demand is highest.

"But we've decided to run the plant round the clock till the power situation improves," said Rahmat Ullah.

"We talked to Titas, Petrobangla and related government agencies to ensure adequate supply of fuel, but nothing concrete came out," he added.

The plant requires some 2.4 million cubic feet of gas everyday.

While asked Md Abdul Aziz Khan, managing director of Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company, which supplies gas to the entire Dhaka metropolitan area, told that there was no solution at the moment.

He said there was no way but to follow a prescribed load management system, which could not guarantee round the clock gas supply to the plant.

"The scenario will improve once gas production increases," Khan said.

Rahmat Ullah, however, said, "Sidhirganj's power production will not be dependent on the regular gas supply for too long though."

A transmission line, now under construction, connecting the Bakhrabad gas field will ensure uninterrupted gas supply to three power plants at Meghnaghat, Sidhirganj and Haripur, he said.

The project, financed by the World Bank, is being implemented by the Gas Transmission Company Limited, and scheduled to be completed by 2012.

Bangladesh's 40 plus power plants have a total production capacity of 5450MW, but gas crisis curbed 1009MW of production on Feb 11 (Thursday), according to PDB.

The PDB records a maximum power generation of 3765MW against a peak hour demand of 4650MW on Thursday. The shortfall was managed with 'load shedding'.


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