Dhaka, Oct 03 – Defending the decision to award contracts to foreign companies for gas exploration and production in Bangladesh, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said on Saturday that the state-owned Bapex’s failure to do its job properly prompted the government to take such a step.
“Bapex (Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company Ltd) could not prepare its own work-plan… in many places, it had just failed to identify proper locations for drilling,” the junior Minister said while speaking on a webinar “EP Talk: Exploration and Management Challenges for Bapex”.
Hamid’s remarks came in the wake of allegations that the government overlooked Bapex while awarding a contract to Russia’s Gazprom to drill wells on the Bhola-North gas field, which was discovered by the state-owned firm, and that too, at a higher quote.
The junior minister also said that the government has been pursuing a policy to engage both the state-owned and foreign companies in parallel ways to explore and produce hydrocarbons across the country.
“The country’s power production capacity has now reached 24,000 MW because of the government’s policy to allow both state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDP) and foreign companies to invest in the sector. If we would have depended only on BPDB, success in the power sector would not have come,” he said.
Asserting that state-owned companies in the power sector function autonomously, the MInister said, “We also want to see Bapex as an independent body that can take its own decision, but it has so far failed in that aspect.”
“If Bapex seeks free funds from the government for its work, it will have to follow certain procedures and must be accountable. But if Bapex takes foreign loans or spends money from its own fund as an independent company, it will not need any such approval from the government for spending the same,” he added.
Hamid also criticised some of the former top executives of Petrobangla and Bapex for their “inactive” and “confusing roles” during their stints. “Only when they retire, they start speaking out. The same people are now giving advice to the government on how to strengthen Bapex. This is frustrating.”
Former managing director of Bapex, Mortuza Ahmed, made a presentation on the topic at the webinar, which was moderated by Energy and Power magazine editor Mollah Amzad Hossain. Others who shared their views included leading energy expert Dr M Tamim and Bapex managing director Mohammad Ali.
“All discussions are being held about Bapex’s success or failure in the past 30 years. But discussions should be about its future plan and there must be specific government policy regarding the company’s future role in the country’s hydrocarbon explorations,” Dr Tamim said. – UNB