Home Power & Energy Energy resources in Bay of Bengal still undiscovered
Power & Energy - February 14, 2024

Energy resources in Bay of Bengal still undiscovered

Mahfuz Emran : After the settlement of the boundary of the Bay of Bengal, two neighboring countries, India and Myanmar, have increased their focus on deep sea energy exploration. Both countries have invested in this sector at different levels. Foreign investment is getting as needed.
On the other hand, Bangladesh is wasting time. Despite the verbal expectation of foreign investment in deep sea exploration of huge oil and gas resources in their own waters, no effective action has been seen in this regard. As a result, the energy resources of the vast marine areas of the country are still unexplored.
There are a total of 26 oil and gas blocks in Bangladesh’s maritime boundaries. Among them 11 in the shallow part and 15 in the deep sea. Agreements have been signed with foreign companies for gas exploration in some of these blocks. These companies came forward with their own investments but later left the bloc. After that, even though there is a gas crisis in the country for a long time, the energy department has chosen import dependence to deal with it.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the ‘Bangladesh Offshore Model Production Sharing Contract’ (PSC) in July last year for deep and shallow sea gas exploration in the country. Even after seven months of approval, tenders have not been called yet.
Energy expert M Tamim told, we could not do any survey of mineral resources in the sea. If there is an agreement in this situation, it will not be beneficial for either Bangladesh or foreign companies.
Former Director General of Bangladesh Oceanographic Research Institute Syed Mahmud Belal Haider told that there are heavy mineral sands in 13 places in the Bay of Bengal. This sand is rich in ilmenite, garnet, sillimanite, zircon, rutile and magnetite. A joint survey of Bangladesh and Germany found the existence of this valuable resource at a depth of 80 to 110 meters in the sea.
In addition, there are manganese crusts composed of cobalt, vanadium, molybdenum and platinum and sulfides composed of copper, lead, zinc, some gold and silver in the shallow seabed. He said that these very valuable resources are at a depth of 1400 to 3700 meters in the sea.
He also said that not only mineral resources, but a type of clay has been found at a depth of 30 to 80 meters in the Bay of Bengal. If this clay from the shallow sea can be extracted, there will be a revolution in the cement industry of Bangladesh.
Use of ocean energy for power generation
With the change of time, research is going on around the world on energy materials as a source of energy. Although new technologies for renewable energy have been introduced worldwide, the issue of power generation using ocean waves and tides is not being thought of in Bangladesh.
Professor of Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology Mohammad Asaduzzaman Chowdhury told that electricity is being produced using buoy converters in the sea at Lysekil in western Sweden and Pelamis wave generators at Sea Beach in Portugal. In addition, the process of using wave energy has started in different countries using 15-20 different technologies. Bangladesh should also take this opportunity. If this is possible, our country will be able to achieve self-sufficiency in electricity through tidal and wave energy.
According to a report by Energy Tracker Asia, Bangladesh’s total 711 km long coastal area is suitable for wind power generation. There is significant potential for generation of clean energy. In this situation, the government has set a target of producing 10 percent of the country’s total electricity supply from renewable energy sources by 2025.
The report also said that to fulfill this goal, production will be started in the 60 MW power plant under construction in Cox’s Bazar this year. Apart from this, three more wind power projects with a total power generation capacity of 102 MW are underway in Sirajganj, Bagerhat and Chuadanga districts, which will be completed next year. The pipeline includes 50 MW power plants at Chandpur Sadar and 30 MW at Sonagazi in Feni. Bangladesh has the potential to find valuable heavy minerals in coastal areas.
Possibility of shipping
Bangladesh has to spend a lot of foreign exchange on the cost of shipping for import and export of goods. However, the shipping sector in Bangladesh is developing rapidly due to its geographical location. New investments are being added to the business. Almost 100% of the domestic demand is being met by domestic companies. About 15 ships are repaired annually in drydocks in Bangladesh.
As of 2023, the number of domestic flag ships was 98. Among them 97 ships are transporting goods from different ports of the world. The process is going on to register more ships.
In the fiscal year 2020-21, Bangladesh’s income from ship rental is about $365 million, which is Tk 3,110 million in Bangladeshi currency. However, after the start of the war in Ukraine, the impact of the recession has reduced that rate of profit.
It is known that at the beginning of the Corona epidemic, the world’s ocean-going ship management business was in extreme trouble. Many decided to scrap the ship. And Bangladeshi businessmen seized that opportunity and registered 32 ships one by one. Among them, maximum 18 ships were registered in 2021.
Along with ships, employment is also increasing in maritime transport. About 17,500 cadets and skilled sailors have been produced in public and private maritime academies, institutes and fisheries academies so far. Among them, 12,000 marine officers and crew are currently working on domestic and foreign ships and liners. About 8,600 seafarers are working on foreign-owned ships. They bring foreign exchange equivalent to about $520 million into the country every year.
Bangladesh Marine Academy Commandant Naval Engineer Sajid Hossain told that 85 percent of the cadets who passed out from the Marine Fisheries Academy are working at the top level in international shipping lines. The remaining 15 percent are engaged in the operation of fishing boats and shore-based fish processing plants in the Bay of Bengal. A captain earns up to $10-15 thousand per month per ship.
Shipbuilding industry
Bangladesh is once again raising its head in the ship industry by building ships with international standard certificates. In the span of five years, Bangladesh has moved up 13 steps to rank 14 in the shipbuilding industry. Bangladesh has left behind countries like USA, India, Singapore, Spain, Romania, Malaysia, Norway and Indonesia. This information was given in the latest report of the United Nations Trade and Development Organization. The big industrial groups have brought this success of Bangladesh in the global list.
Recently, Singapore and Australia-based Gentium Solutions and Dutch company Damen Shipyard Group have proposed to build an international standard shipyard next to Payra Port with an investment of $158 million. If implemented, the project will be the highest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Bangladesh.
Shipwreck industry
According to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Bangladesh has maintained its top position as the leading ship recycling country in the world despite a 65 percent reduction in ship breaking activities by 2023. Top entrepreneurs of the country are investing in this industry. About 60-70 thousand people are directly employed in ship breaking industry. Another 3 million people are indirectly involved in this business.
Some of the recyclable by-products from this industry are exported and the rest are recycled in various factories in Bangladesh. The shipbreaking industry generates 30-35 lakh tonnes of scrap every year, which currently supplies more than 70 per cent of the raw material for the local steel industry. Besides, there is a demand for old ship furniture all over the country.
According to Bangladesh Ship Breakers and Recyclers Association (BSBRA), there are currently around 158 ship breaking yards in the country. The locations of these ship breaking yards are Madam Bibi Hat, Kumira, Bhatiari, Sonaichari, Jahanabad, Kadamarsul, Banshbaria along the coast of Chittagong Sitakunda. Of these, 80 institutions are currently operational.
However, one accident after another in the breaking yards is putting the image of this industry in dire straits. Besides, there is no authority to monitor the working environment, but this industrial sector of immense potential is not able to come out of the crisis.
Opportunity to increase port facilities
Ports play a strategic role in national trade and economy. 80 percent in terms of volume and 70 percent in terms of value of world trade is conducted by sea. Bangladesh’s import and export goods transportation by sea is increasing at an average rate of about 8 percent every year. Trade Every year about three thousand foreign ships flock to the ports of Bangladesh to transport goods. Chittagong port is handling this huge pressure practically single-handedly. Chittagong Port is playing a role as the charioteer of the export income of the country including the garment industry.
Economist and retired professor of Chittagong University, Moinul Islam told that the traffic of the world’s ports is expected to triple by 2030. In this case, to develop maritime economy through global maritime trade between coastal countries, Chittagong port as well as Matarbari deep sea port, Mongla and Payra ports should be developed as strong transit points. Besides Bay-Terminal, Patenga Container Terminal as well as the natural deep sea port we have got at Sonadia should be utilized.
Land is rising into the sea
In terms of size, Bangladesh is the 94th largest country in the world, but in terms of population, Bangladesh is the eighth largest country in the world. Therefore, the cities of the country are struggling to cope with the pressure of huge population. However, every year Brahmaputra, Meghna and Padma rivers discharge 100 million tons of sediment into the Bay of Bengal. Due to this silt, 52 square kilometers of new pastures are rising on the ground. This information was obtained from the Bangladesh Center for Environment and Geographical Information Service (CEGIS).
According to the data, in 100 years from 1913 to 2013, the Noakhali coast of Bay of Bengal extended 55 km south. New islands are rising in the estuary of Meghna river.
Rezaul Karim, Land Settlement Officer of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) told, Bangladesh has gained 1000 square kilometers of new land in the last 100 years. In addition, there are 30-40 resurgent divers that are slightly underwater. Which are waiting to wake up in the next five-seven years.
He said that since 1980, with the financial support of the Netherlands government, IFAD has been working on land development under these pasture land rescue projects, pasture development and settlement projects. Under this project, the islands built on river sand and silt at the Bay of Bengal have now been converted into green farm houses.
Professor Saidur Rahman Chowdhury of the Institute of Marine Sciences and Fisheries at Chittagong University told that, just as chars develop in a favorable environment, they can also disappear due to slight changes.
He said, extensive afforestation should be done there to preserve the pastures that have emerged in the last few decades. If cross dams and technological initiatives like in Netherlands or Singapore are taken, it is possible to take the area of land raised on the coast to about 15 thousand square miles.

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