Coal News of Phulbari – Bangladesh

News on coal resources & coal basins of Bangladesh

Archive for March, 2009

Minister, FBCCI chief say: Pledge for change meaningless without electricity

Posted by phulbarinews on March 30, 2009

Staff Reporter

State Minister for Power and Energy Shamsul Hoq Tuku yesterday said that the government is unable to fulfil its election manifesto pledge without adequate electricity production. “Without electricity, our pledge for change will not be implemented,” he said a conference at Bangladesh China Friendship Conference Centre. The Centre For Policy and Dialogue (CPD) organised the conference.

For additional electricity production, it is urgent need to extract coal and exploration of gas, the Minister said. “We are extracting coal, but we have no policy on how to use this coal,” he said. “We must finalise the policy first with consultation of the experts and public, and then decide on mining.”

FBCCI President Annisul Huq said Power failure rate up 10 percent of factory production. “We do not have electricity 20 to 25 per cent of working hour.” He called upon the government to withdraw the licence tax for captive power and immediate decision on rental power plant for reducing energy crisis. He said that the businessmen are ready to provide financial support to strengthen BAPEX for gas exploration.

BUET Prof Nurul Islam said that the draft of a coal policy was submitted to the ministry at least eight times, but the ministry refused to work on it and finalise it. About the corruption in energy sector, he said, “Asia energy is so powerful that corruption of Asia energy was not investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission. This was apparently done to protect the interests of Asia energy,” he said.

In his keynote paper, former Power Division Secretary M Fouzul Kabir Khan said we should stop blame game and national consensus is must for energy security in the country. He recommended finalising the coal policy and passing energy conservation act as a policy and institutional reform in energy sector. The former secretary informed that the government supply only 1,830mmcfd of gas against the demand of 2,095mmcfd.

CUET Prof M Shamsul Islam said some private entrepreneurs in power sector earned huge money in the name of power generation. Eng Sheikh Mohammed Sahidullah said that it is no need to produce coal by open pit method.  “It will be able to meet our demand for coal by extracting under ground mining,” he said.

Imran Ahmed MP, BIDS research director Dr. Assaduzzman, former PDB Chairman Shamsul Islam, Dhaka University Prof Dr. Hussain Monsur, former Power Cell Director General BD Rahmatullah, former atomic energy commission Chairman Shafiqul Islam also addressed at the conference, titled ‘Energy Sector: Challenges of Adding New Capacity’. Syed Manzur Elahi, a trustee member of CPD chaired the session.


Date: 30 March 2009, Bangladesh


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Minister talks tough on power sector graft

Posted by phulbarinews on March 30, 2009

Star Business Report

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Shamsul Haque Tuku yesterday said the government would take punitive actions against the corrupt officials under his ministry.

He said if anybody lodges complaints against any official involved in corruption, his ministry will conduct an investigation into the matter to take actions against the accused person. The state minister also said he would initiate move to investigate how the files of corruption went missing from different offices under his ministry.

Tuku was speaking as chief guest at the plenary session styled ‘Energy Sector: Challenges of Adding New Capacity’ on the last day of a two-day conference in Dhaka. The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), an independent think tank, organised the conference on “Development with Equity and Justice: Immediate Tasks for the Newly Elected Government” at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre.

Former secretary to the Power Division M Fouzul Kabir Khan presented the keynote paper. Former adviser to a caretaker government Syed Manzur Elahi moderated the session participated by lawmakers, businesspeople, chamber leaders, bankers, policymakers, researchers and academics. Tuku said the people living adjacent to Barapukuria coalmine site are in favour of coal extraction from this mine.

“I have already visited the place and talked with the affected people near the coalmine site. They agreed on coal extraction from this mine,” he said. The state minister said the government would formulate the coal extraction policy soon by fixing the methods of extracting coal from the Barapukuria mine.

At the session, Annisul Huq, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said between March 10 and March 18 his five factories near Dhaka experienced a 25 percent power outage during the working hours. He complained that he lost around 10 percent productivity due to frequent outages in his factories during this 9-day period.

“The problem of power is acute. The government must take steps to resolve the power crisis,” he said. The FBCCI president said at present there are 64 power plants across the country of which 30 plants are 30 years old.  If the government can minimise the wastages in all the power plants by at least two percent, the plants will be able to generate an additional 100 megawatt of power immediately, Huq said.

He suggested that the government should strengthen state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration & Production Company Limited and explore gas from new fields.


Date: 30 March 2009, Bangladesh

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Coal Mining Method: Option for Bangladesh

Posted by phulbarinews on March 23, 2009

Zubayer Zaman

Coal is the world’s most affordable and abundant fossil fuel, contributing to about 41% of electrical power and 26% of primary energy needs of the world.  At current production levels, proven coal reserves are estimated to last around 147 years. In contrast, proven oil and gas reserves are equivalent to around 41 and 63 years respectively (World Coal Institute, 2007). While over 68% of oil and 67% of gas reserves are concentrated in the Middle East and Russia, coal reserves are available in almost every country, with recoverable reserves in around 70 countries, making it most secure energy source than oil and gas. Despite the concerns over global warming for burning fossil fuels, especially coal, its role as dominant fuel is increasing throughout the world. According to World Energy Outlook 2008, world demand for coal advances by 2% a year on average, its share in global energy demand climbing from 26% in 2006 to 29% in 2030. Some 85% of the increase in global coal consumption comes from the power sector in China and India to support their impressive economic growth.


Good news for Bangladesh comparing the primary energy sources of its neighbors. The country has good quality bituminous coal with an estimated reserve of 2-3 billion tones in the five discovered coal fields. But the further potential of coal is still to be explored, though the country made the first discovery in 1962 at Jamalganj. Bangladesh has entered into the era of coal mining through the development of Barapukuria underground mine with projected output of 1 million tones per annum for 25-30 years. Detailed geological, geotechnical, social and environmental studies following international standards have been completed for the Phulbari coal field. This two well assessed coal fields jointly share an extractable reserve of about 1 billion tones. Jamalganj coal field with significant resource (>1 billion tones) is so far not considered technically and economically feasible for mining due to the depth (>600m). Other two coal fields, Khalaspir and Dighipara are not systematically assessed and significant efforts will be required to define the mine-able reserve and the method of mining and associated issues.



The Phulbari coal is mostly embedded in two major seams within the Gondwana basin accounting for almost 90% of the deposit with few other thin seams at different depths. Open pit mining will allow considering all the seams in mine design and thus maximize the recover to around 90-95% with other valuable co-products like kaolin, glass sand, gravels etc from the overburden materials. Experts suggest that the underground mining is not feasible considering the seam thickness, geotechnical conditions, mining conditions and economic returns (as already experienced with the Barapukuria mining). Thickness of the coal seams in underground mining significantly influences the resource recovery and mine safety, specially in a geotechnical conditions like Barapukuria and Phulbari. Barapukuria underground mining is being carried out using longwall mining method and coal is being extracted from seam-VI in slices (each slice around 2.5m). This multi slicing extraction method doesn’t allow recovery of major amount of coal and increases the risk of safety hazards like land subsidence, roof collapse, inundation of water, spontaneous combustion of coal etc as the mining advances. Land subsidence is inevitable in underground mining and Barapukuria mine has been facing the experience of such incidents in its very early stage. The subsidence will be more prominent over the large area following the progress of mining with permanent loss of land and other assets. The highly faulted and fractured nature of the basin might have some links to the land subsidence of Barapukuria and may further play bigger role as mining advances.



The coal resource is overlain by a major regional aquifer, the Upper Dupi Tila sequence. This poses significant technological challenge and environmental risks for mining. The presence of impervious ‘Lower Dupi Tila’ clay layer in the lithologic sequence immediately below the aquifer acts as a barrier to prevent water entering the lower sequences and its thicker presence is very vital for underground mining. This clay layer is relatively thinner and at times absent in the shallower section of the Barapukuria and Phulbari basin and gradually thicker towards deeper section. Therefore, underground mining in the shallower basin increases the risk of water inrushes from the overlying aquifer. The numerous faults and fractures of the basin might create some passage with the overlying aquifer which may open up further with coal extraction and increases the risk of mine flooding. Barapukuria coal mine already had such experience in 1998 that flooded the mine and forced to change the design. There should be a thorough study of the origin of huge amount of mine water which is being pumped out every day to keep the mine dry. If the source is overlying aquifer then there is a significant cause of concern for the mine safety and environment in future.



On the other hand, open pit mining requires to managing this regional aquifer efficiently to ensure safe working environment and stabilize the pit slope. The environmental and social implications of groundwater extraction need to be managed through ensuring supply of water for irrigation, community and other environmental uses. Fortunately the world mining industry has made significant technological advancement in handling large open pit mining operation at greater depth in complex geological and hydrogeological conditions. Major coal producing countries like India, Australia, USA and Indonesia produce most of their coal from open pit mines. RWE’s Hambach, Inden and Garzweiler mines in Cologne, Germany are the classic example of successful large open pit mining operations. Hambach alone produces 40 million tones of lignite annually at greater depth (>300m) managing huge aquifers (water extraction rate 16,000-17,000 litre/sec) and its social and environmental impacts.



Bangladesh coal is of good quality but considering other major coal producing countries the reserve is pretty limited- almost equivalent to the annual production of China. Therefore, mining method has to be appropriate to maximize the recovery taking into consideration of geological, hydrogeological reality of the coal fields, and economic viability and energy needs of the country. Underground mining experience at Barapukuria has already demonstrated that coal extraction with this method is not a sustainable solution, and will not meet the required demand for the country. It is uneconomic and will lead to loss of valuable resources of the country. With the present mine design at Barapukuria mine, the resource recovery will be less than 10%, leaving most of coal underground after spending millions of dollars for mine development. The mine which had all the potentiality to become a major energy source for the country is now running uneconomically and struggling to feed only 250MW power plant. Considering the limited reserve and fast growing primary energy market, open pit mining is the most logical option for coal development. An open pit coal mine with an annual output of 10-15 million tones can easily support generation of few thousand megawatts of electricity (approx. 3 million tones/annum of coal may ensure generating 1000 MW). Moreover, current import of 5-6 million tones of low quality, high sulphur coal can be substituted. Coal based briquette industry can be developed to supplement fire wood for domestic cooking and other light industries.



Open pit and underground, both are well established and well practiced mining methods for extraction of coal. But the choice of mining method depends on basin geology, and economic viability of extraction of the deposit. Social and environmental impacts of mining are also important consideration. Generally open pit mining method is preferred for appropriate geotechnical conditions of a coal deposit as it maximizes the resource recovery and offers better economics, and surplus revenues for environmental and social care related to mine development. Bangladesh already has the experience of underground coal mining. The option for open pit mining should be evaluated at least for one coal field with introduction of state of art technologies and best practice mitigation measures of mining world. Country can’t effort to go for another uneconomic venture like Barapukuria. This will neither ensure the energy security nor protect the interest of the country.



Date: 01 February 2009, Bangladesh

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“Open Pit Mining Must Start in Phulbari”

Posted by phulbarinews on March 17, 2009

Mollah M Amzad Hossain

Prof. Hossain Mansur of Geology Department of Dhaka University said that appropriate initiative must be taken without delay to explore and exploit coal as alternative fuel to ensure the required power generation in accordance with the election pledge of Awami League. For this, he said, the decision for open pit mining to extract coal from Phulbari is required to be taken on priority basis.

“But to work out the modality, the government must set up a high powered committee now comprising of representatives of Asia Energy, civil society who are opposed to mining at Phulbari and line professionals,” he told the Energy & Power

The EP Editor Mollah Amzad Hossain took the interview of Prof. Hossain Mansur, who is also an ex chairman of Petrobnagla. Following are the excerpts:

EP: What’s your observation about the energy infrastructure development plans or guidelines of Awami League– having proven track record of successfully managing energy sector from 1996-2001– which has returned to state power?

HM: Let us have an objective view of election agenda before making subjective analysis. Possibly this is for the first time since liberation of Bangladesh any political party formally declared well defined short, medium and long term planning for developing energy infrastructure to confront prevailing and emerging energy crisis.

It has been planned to generate additional 5000 MW power in the next 5 years. Generation from different viable alternatives– natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewable source have been envisioned in the plan. Party energy vision till 2021 has also been included there.

Government has spent only about 50 days in state power. There cannot be any doubt about the competence of the persons entrusted to implement the plan. Moreover, Prime Minister herself is monitoring it. But for this the implementing agencies have not been restructured yet. I hope this will be done soon.

Everyone is aware about prevailing crisis of competent professionals in the energy sector. Resolving this crisis is also a major challenge for the new government. Engaging an energy expert as advisor of energy sector during caretaker government was also a right decision.

EP: Do you think the government’s plan to engage an expert committee for this sector will create positive impact?

HM: I think it to be a good initiative of the Prime Minister. Committee formed with real energy experts of the country will definitely bring positive impact.

EP: There are court cases against PM Sheikh Hasina and ex PM Khaleda Zia regarding NIKO–BAPEX joint venture for marginal gas field development. What are your views about it?

HM: Head of the government has prerogative to approve any decision in the greater interest of the country. PMs considered this agreement as beneficial for the country. These cases are purely political.

If there has to be any genuine case of corruption in energy sector that has to be for leasing out Jalalabad gas field. BNP government handed over a discovered gas field to Occidental for a mere 22 million US dollars. But the government now has already purchased 24,000 US$ worth of gas from this field.

EP: Oil Gas & Port Protection Committee claims that there had been major irregularities in Niko agreement. You are associated with their movement. Now you are telling there was no irregularity. Then why you are still with their movement?

HM: Look the committee has several unreasonable demands like opposing offshore exploration; open pit coal mining. Niko is also one such. I don’t agree with the committee on these. It is not possible as an expert to agree with them on these issues.

But I worked with them to resist export of natural gas. I am with them on this. I am trying to make them understand their mistakes.

The left politicians who are staging agitation on oil, gas and port protection know it very well that they will never come to state power. That is why they have taken negative stand on reasonable issues.

EP: Let us again discuss on election pledges of Awami League. Do you think it is possible for the government to realize the pledge?

HM: Look in 1996 when Awami League came to power the government also inherited similar crisis situation in energy sector. Concurrently with expediting ongoing projects government encouraged massive gas exploration initiatives. Moulvibazar gas field was discovered. World Class Bibiyana gas field was also discovered. Sangu offshore gas field was brought into production. BAPEX developed Salda Nadi Gas Field.

On the other hand new power plants were set up after finalizing IPP policy within very short time. Side by side private sector power plants were also set up. For these actions generation increased from effective capacity of 1,500 to 3,000 MW. Consequently first three years of BNP government did not witness any crisis although they failed to set up a new plant during that time.

Now when Awami League led government is again in power the installed capacity of power is 5,450 MW. Some of the aging plants are derated so the real installed capacity is now reduced to 4,950 MW. For ongoing maintenance 680 MW can not be generated. Gas supply crisis also impedes generation of about 500-700 MW. So the available effective generation capacity is now 3,600-3,800 MW. This is not much different to what Awami League government left behind in 2001.

During the last term of Awami League government there was no crisis of gas supply. There was demand supply balance… I mean security of supply in the national gas grid. But now when public and private sectors have plans to set up power plants having capacity of 3,000 MW Petrobangla can not guarantee gas supply to more than 1,000 MW generation. So power generation as per its declared vision is a great challenge for the government. So not only actions for increasing power generation but also actions to source fuel for power are also major challenge. Even a single day must not be wasted in hesitating and sitting on decisions.

In my opinion if the government sincerely intends to realize its election pledge in energy sector it must take decision for offshore exploration in the Bay of Bengal as soon as possible.

On the other hand, appropriate planning needs to be made reviewing the situation whether gas supply will be possible to all planned gas based power plants. If there is uncertainty these must be dual fuel plants.

As a geologist I am optimistic that more gas fields will be discovered in Bangladesh. But natural gas alone can not meet the requirement of power generation. We must diversify fuel option. We need coal. This is our only major viable option. Import of hydro electricity is another option. There is scope for nuclear power generation also. We have to work on renewable power generation. But renewable energy can not be a substitute for fossil fuel based power generation.

Government alone do not have resources or capacity for required power generation. We have to rely on private sector investment from both local and foreign sources. So we must identify areas of energy value chain for foreign direct investment keeping our national interest above everything.

EP: Will you elaborate your opinion on feasibility of alternative fuels other than coal that you have mentioned.

HM: There is very little scope to expand our own hydroelectricity generation. But hydroelectricity import is only possible through regional initiatives. It has to come from Nepal and Bhutan. Both the countries have enormous hydroelectricity generation potential. India is currently importing power from them.

Bangladesh has to take political decision and try to catalyze four nation joint initiative to import hydroelectricity. It is a long term option.

The government has taken some initiative for nuclear power generation. But environmentalists are divided in opinion on nuclear power generation. Government must keep this into consideration also.

EP: You have said that coal is the only feasible option. But we are locked in various debates regarding coal exploration. How exploration can start resolving the current impasse?

HM: Please remember Bangladesh has 2.5 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves. It is possible with available technology to extract at least 1 billion tonne. Exploration from the largest reserve Jamalganj is not commercially viable in traditional method. We are mining coal from Barapukuria by underground method. But due to wrong decision we can only extract about 5 million tonne by 2011. This underground mine will create massive depression and subsidence in the mine area. It can never be restored and rehabilitated. The subsidence process has already commenced. Due to wrong decision it will not be possible to even extract 20-25% coal in place. It will be unwise to set up any new coal fired power plant based on Barapukuria coal.

EP: So you are saying exploration of coal in Barapukuria by underground method is a wrong decision?

HM: Look I am a geologist. Bangladesh geology in the mine area does not support underground mining. If we like to mine commercially it has to be open cut method only for shallow coal mines. Water management is major challenge here. Open pit mining can support recovery of 90% coal in place. In 5-10 years most of the mine area can be restored to original state. Only the final pit about 20% can be converted to a sweet water lake. This will be a massive asset for Bangladesh, a major source of power generation and other use.

It should be mentioned here that 1,400 crore taka has already been spent to develop Barapukuria mine and 1,600 crore taka has been spent to set up mine mouth power plant. But due to inappropriate mining method the investment is under great risk. The property and assets of the people of the region are endangered.

EP: You are telling Bangladesh should follow open pit mining method to explore coal. But, the Oil, Coal and Port Protection Committee is opposed to it.

HM: Look the movement was not against open pit mining. The committee movement was basically due to lack of trust on the then government. Actually it was not mining method rather it was lack of trust on the 4 party alliance government which crystallized the movement.

EP: But it is being told resettlement is a huge problem in case of open pit mining. How do you think about it?

HM: There is international law. Bangladesh also has land acquisition rule. Our neighbour India has extensive experience of open pit mining. In Bangladesh about 3-3.5 lakh people may need to be rehabilitated from mining region for open pit mining for development of all the mines. For a democratic government it may not be a major challenge considering the overall national benefits that availability of huge coal resource and its manifold use would bring about good impacts.

EP: You are suggesting steps to start coal mining must be taken without wasting a day even. How it is possible? Where exploration should start at first?

HM: I believe action to set up coal based power plant installation must start if possible from today. To make coal based power available mining must start at Phulbari first. The reason behind this is that only Phulbari mine is now ready after discovery and other extensive studies.

I also believe that exploration of natural resource will invariably have environmental and social impacts. There will not be any exception here also. But all actions must be taken to mine coal making minimum impact on environment and protecting the rights of affected population.

EP: In that case which company will implement Phulbari Mining? The government has an agreement with Asia Energy.

HM: After signing an agreement there is no scope to disoblige it. It could be more appropriate if an agreement like PSC with provision for cost recovery and exploration-exploitation could be concluded. That would have better protected Bangladesh interest.

On the other hand it has to be decided upon discussion whether Asia Energy or government will carry out open pit mining at Phulabri. But we must keep in mind that extensive government support is a must for mining by Asia Energy or any other company at Phulbari.

EP: Then what you suggest to make the start?

HM: Decision should be taken by the government constituted high powered committee comprising of Asia Energy, agitating civil society representative right now on Phulbari mine development. If necessary the government may seek assistance from Australia, Germany and of India who have vast mining experience. These countries have extensive expertise and experience of coal mining.

Simultaneously the government must finalize the coal policy eliminating provision of coal export. There is no scope to waste time waiting for coal policy anymore.

EP: So are you talking about mining at Khalaspeer and Dighipara also?

HM: Not at all. I have talked about Phulbari only. The alliance government awarded the lease permission to a Bangladeshi-Chinese JV for Khalaspeer without inviting tender. This must be investigated. No initiative should be taken for mining before proper investigation. Petrobnangla has also signed MOU with a Korean Company for mining at Dighipara. It should also be investigated. Without tender no mining lease should be given to anyone anymore.

EP: What are your views on proposed tri-nation gas pipeline and other regional energy cooperation initiatives?

HM: It was a wrong decision for Bangladesh not to proceeding with the tri-nation gas pipeline initiative. Besides, Bangladesh must actively participate in other SAARC, BIMSTEC, Central Asian and Middle Eastern energy ring and grid projects. This must be done in view of our long-term energy security.

Date: 17 March 2009


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