Coal News of Phulbari – Bangladesh

News on coal resources & coal basins of Bangladesh

Challenges of Petrobangla New Chairman : Part 3

Posted by phulbarinews on November 2, 2009

Engr. Khondkar Abdus Saleque

72404412_338ea5535f_mDr. Hussein Mansur was made Chairman Petrobangla for few months at the last stage of Awami League Government of the last term. He is known as Awami League leaning intellectual. He was involved in the preparation of Awami League Election Pledges and was reportedly lobbying for the position since formation of Mahajote Government. He has good links with the highest level of the Bangladesh government. One hopes that he uses his links effectively to salvage Gas and Coal based energy sector from the brink of collapse. Mahajote Government has definite plan with him as it relied on him to deliver at this very critical stage of energy security.

Coal Exploration:

Apart from natural gas and gas liquid Petrobangla is also responsible for extraction and exploitation of other mineral resources – Coal, Hard Rocks etc. Two Petrobangla Companies are looking after two active mines at Dinajpoor. We have finite Natural Gas Reserve and resource potential may not be enough for our long term energy security. C But we have very high quality and less polluting coal reserve. According to independent estimate we have about 65 TCF equivalent Bituminous Coal in 5 discovered Coal mines. There is possibility of getting some more if explored properly. The coal seam at the largest mine at Jamalgonj is pretty deep while at Barapukuria and Phulbari the coal seam is between 15-500 Meter below surface. This multiseam coal resource is reasonably thick and is buried under soft silty water bound Dupitilla overburden. The entire coal belt spreads over 100 SqMiles and is mostly in Dinajpoor Rangpoor area. While the nation is busy talking about utilization of about 6-7 Tcf proven gas resource most of the 65 TCF equivalent Coal resource remains buried for a long time. Nation is locked in unnecessary debate over mining techniques, mining methods. Petrobangla does not have many active miners, no senior mining Engineer on job. Non miners mostly university teachers having no hands on experience of mining on energy sector have confused policy makers and successfully stalled all efforts to mine economically in Bangladesh. Bangladesh wasted 4 years in disputes and debates over coal policy.

Dr Mansur as PB Chairman having blessing of highest level of Government has to break the ice. The only active Bangladeshi Coal mine is bleeding. Underground Coal mining in shallow depth multi seam Coal mine with soft silty over burden that prevails at Barapukuria is a technical blunder – a crime. Bangladesh can ill afford to extract less than 10 % of recoverable coal from a mine in very unsafe and hugely expensive mining method. Moreover inevitable mine subsidence which eventually will require permanent relocation of all mine affected community has set in. In a recent site visit by a practising NRB mining engineer it appeared that further mining in Long wall Underground method beyond 2011 at Barapukuria will be a waste of time. Money and efforts. The present mining method with poor ventilation and in absence of standard Health, Safety and Environmental plan may cause catastrophic accident any time.

Dr Mansur was with us in Jamuna Resort in June 2006 during our NRB brain storming on Coal Mining strategy. We made specific recommendations on Barapukuria Mining and Coal policy. We hope he as Geologists could appreciate what we shared with Bangladeshi professionals and policy makers. If he needs further consultation we will volunteer to do that. But Chairman PB must be proactive for Coal mining.

There are proven techniques and technology how to conduct mining in similar geology, soil Condition and environment in Bangladesh. To achieve Millennium Development Goal Bangladesh needs to supply power to all its population. Bangladesh does have enough other alternative resources to fuel power generation. It has to explore and extract most of its coal sooner or later. It will take several years to aquire technology and financial capacity to carry out mining by its own expetrts . It has to engage leading mining companies who have technology to mine managing all associated impacts. Government has to relocate and rehabilitate all type of affected community – land and property owners, marginalised farmers, vulnerable group in proper manner. Dr Mansur must set the trend.

Many say Barapukuria is the ideal candidate for conducting surface mining on experimental basis. In this modern age when any sensible person can access relevant documents of the state of the art technology do we need experiment? Do we have time and money to still waste? We have seen from 3D model of Barapukuria that thickest coal seam is now lying below mine surface structure and Mine Mouth power plants. Are we planning to relocate power plants and demolish mine structure? Well this is major decision. Moreover fresh feasibility survey is going to take time.

While on the other hand another similar mine at Phulbari where some leading international companies have conducted extensive studies at detail feasibility stage is ready for mining. There may be some concerns about water management, Rehab issues. Experienced consultants can re-examine those. The scope for export and limit of royalty can be revisited. But in such a critical stage why government should seat on such a potential project?

Some people say expert Committee opined against it. Who were in the committee? The 8 of the 12 members did not agree with the remaining four – two University teachers, an accountant and one Petrobangla appointed Lawyer signed the so called expert committee report which did not analyse or discuss the TOR issues of the committee at all. Why not PB and government call all members of that expert committee and listen to the opinion of each individual? If that can be done by Government the veils of so called patriots will be exposed. The barriers to surface mining and Phulbari mining will be removed. We hope Dr Mansur will try to do that.

We hope that PB Chairman will voice his concern against continued use of polluting high sulphur Indian Coal in our brick fields. We can not understand why BELA, BAPA or BEN never talk about unhindered access of polluting Indian Coal in Bangladesh? Most of this coal comes through Shriakandi and Tamabeel Borders of Sylhet. We hope that our Syhlhetti Finance Minister and Energy Advisor to PM will stop entry of polluting coal through their neighbourhood soon.

Coal mining in Bangladesh in appropriate technology is the only feasible option now to confront energy crisis. Other options will never bring any relief in mid term – long term. Bangladesh can not afford to rely on expensive liquid fuel option for along term. Renewable source may not meet more than 10% in 20 years. Off shore gas will take at least 10 years to provide comfort. Bangladesh will get no steam coal from India for power generation.

PB Chairman must explore possibility of developing Dighipara Coal Mine under PPP with major mining Company selected in a transparent manner. We feel existing MOU with whatever company for Khalaspeer must be scrapped and PB could be given license to develop under PPP as well. Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) may be studied for Jamalgonj Coal mine as well under PB.


Date: 26 October 2009, Bangladesh


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