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Offshore oil and gas could reshape energy sector landscape: Experts

After eight long years, Bangladesh’s initiative to extract offshore gas is being celebrated as a game-changer.

Analysts believe this could significantly alter the dynamics of the entire energy sector. Petrobangla, the state-owned company, has issued invitations for international tenders for 24 deep and shallow sea blocks under the updated Production Sharing Contract (PSC) framework.

After a long legal battle in the international court, an era has passed since Bangladesh won the maritime boundary with India-Myanmar. But, the Energy Division could not make any significant progress in the search for oil and gas in the Bay of Bengal. The last tender for offshore oil and gas exploration was called in 2016, and four foreign companies started the work. However, the three companies left the Bay of Bengal midway due to gas prices and availability issues. Petrobangla has finally broken the stalemate and entered the field. The state-owned company has invited international tenders on March 10 in light of the production-partnership agreement or new PSC finalised last year. Interested institutions have been given 6 months. The natural gas reserves in the Bay of Bengal are divided into a total of 26 blocks. Out of this, 15 blocks are in the deep sea, and 11 blocks are considered shallow. Among them, the Indian company ONGC is conducting surveys in two shallow blocks.

Energy expert Professor Dr Badrul Imam, who has been researching gas extraction and exploration for a long time, believes it is possible to change the whole situation with sea gas. He said, “It may be that there are huge resources hidden in the unexplored areas of Bangladesh. But there is no way to understand if you don’t work there. So, you have to dig. And if huge resources are discovered by digging, the picture will change. Large, medium, or small wealth will be discovered.” However, despite the great interest of foreign companies, he urged their employment after verifying all technical and engineering aspects. “Having companies like Chevron and Action Mobil in Bangladesh is a positive aspect. But there are many smaller companies that may take a block, but after one to two years, they sell it to another company and leave. But we don’t want that,” he added. Meanwhile, two neighbouring countries, India and Myanmar, have achieved great success by exploring deep within their own borders in the Bay of Bengal. ONGC has found large reserves of fuel oil and gas at a distance of 35 km from the coast of Andhra Pradesh. Myanmar has already started extracting gas from two gas wells named Mia and Shwe near the border of Bangladesh.

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