Saturday, August 29, 2009

Protests against Bangla gas leases

A pro-left civic group Saturday protested the Bangladeshi government's decision to award rights to two foreign oil firms to explore and exploit three natural gas blocks with export options in the Bay of Bengal.

'We will go for aggressive actions in future if the government does not scrap the deals with international companies hurting national interests,' said Sheikh Muhammad Shaheedullah, the coordinator of a group calling itself the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port.

At a press conference at the office of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, the committee announced it would stage protests at the headquarters of state-run Petrobangla, which deals with management of the country's oil and gas exploration, on September 2.

The committee is demanding that the government revise the present Production Sharing Contacts with the international companies which would allow them to export 80 per cent of the gas in liquefied form.

Bangladesh's Awami League-led ruling alliance on August 24 approved awarding of two deep sea gas blocks to the US oil company ConocoPhillips and a shallow sea block to the Irish firm Tullow in Bangladesh's territorial waters.
The leftist groups have long opposed such gas export options by the companies under the Production Sharing Contract, which was drafted by the past military-backed government in 2008. The groups cite the country's own severe fuel crisis in opposing the exports.

Bangladesh, currently with a proven gas reserve of around 7 trillion cubic feet, is desperately looking for new reserves as the gas supply situation is expected to turn severe by 2011.

Industrial production and power generation have been seriously hit by the gas crisis, with the country now facing a shortage of around 250 million cubic feet per day. Production is currently running at 1,950 million cubic feet per day.