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Excelerate sees BD as growing LNG hub

Reaches its full capacity far quicker than many countries

M Azizur Rahman | April 18, 2019 00:00:00

Excelerate Energy's Vice President Ramon Wangdi

The US energy giant Excelerate sees Bangladesh as an LNG (liquefied natural gas) market poised for exponential growth to meet the needs of its fast-growing economy.

Excelerate delivered the first floating LNG import facility at Moheshkhali Island in August 2018, some two years after deals were done.

"The maiden project came on line and reached its full capacity far quicker than many other countries globally," Excelerate Energy's Vice-President (business development) Ramon Wangdi told the FE on Tuesday.

Excelerate's FSRU (floating, storage and regasification unit), Excellence, is Bangladesh's first LNG import plant that started commercial operations on August 18.

Since the introduction of LNG into its energy system, the country has gradually ramped up its LNG imports with the FSRU reaching its full capacity.

Around 500 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of gas was delivered in late January 2019 after more than five months into its formal launch, according to Excelerate.

Other regional markets, such as Pakistan that began operations in 2015, did not reach full utilisation until over a year into their operations.

"It's very normal for countries that are new to LNG to gradually ramp up their imports to full capacity as the downstream energy infrastructure adjusts to the introduction of a new fuel," said Mr Wangdi.

"Bangladesh has been able to achieve this in a far quicker period of time and should be commended for this achievement," he went on to say.

About Excellence, he said Moheshkhali Floating LNG Terminal is an 'iconic' project not only for Bangladesh, but also for the global oil and gas sector at large, he said.

Excelerate's terminal is the first and only such terminal in the Bay of Bengal.

Respecting the government's firm commitment, Mr Wangdi said, the terminal was built and commissioned in line with all the obligations made with the management.

"We delivered the FSRU within 13 months of attaining all necessary permits and authorisations, although we had 16 months as per the agreement. Our agreements incentivised us to deliver the terminal early."

The carrier came here early to support the terminal's pre-commissioning activities, but its arrival was not at the governments' cost, Mr Wangdi cited.

Excelerate, however, said building the terminal during monsoon in the Bay of Bengal and initiating regasified LNG supply to pipelines were not without challenges.

"Bringing and commissioning the FSRU considering sea condition, especially wind, waves, current and all different weather conditions, was not an easy task."

"Excelerate overcame the challenges and successfully delivered over 24 LNG cargoes which equate to over 60 million MMBtus of gas within the first six months of operation," Mr Wangdi said.

"Having operated under similar conditions in other locations, Excelerate extensively studied the operating environment in the Bay of Bengal to overcome these challenges," he added.

The Excellence carried around 136,000 cubic metres of lean LNG from Qatar to Moheshkhali on April 24, 2018.

But technical issues and rough seas during the Jun-Aug monsoon kept it stranded off the south coast of Chattogram for more than three months.

Excelerate docked and connected the floating unit to the subsea pipeline network on August 05 and commenced injecting gas into the pipeline on August 12.

Mr Wangdi expressed satisfaction over the past seven months' operations and relationship with the state-owned Petrobangla and the government.

"We're very pleased with the operations thus far and the way we are heading," he said.

"In the past six months of operations, the FSRU regasified around 300,000 mmcfd of lean LNG on average, the Excelerate official said.

"This is above 10 per cent of the country's overall natural gas output before we arrived," he mentioned.

But the FSRU and its entire system have been designed to regasify around 500 mmcfd.

"Regasification of 500 mmcfd is what we guaranteed to the Petrobangla and the government," said Mr Wangdi.

The Petrobangla could request excess capacity, but it is not guaranteed, he clarified.

Mr Wangdi was, however, optimistic about the ensuing operations of the country's second FSRU terminal owned by Summit Group. It is slated for late April.

With its rapid economic growth, Bangladesh has thirst for energy and it will continue to require natural gas to meet the mounting domestic demand, he said.

Natural gas is the primary fuel here and it is the main fuel for base-load power plants, meaning that gas is required for continuous power generation.

But in countries like Brazil, gas is used as fuel for peaking power plants, meaning the plants that remain operational during peak demands, Mr Wangdi justified.

Excelerate is eager to further invest in LNG infrastructure here, including FSRUs, he stated.

Bangladesh is an attractive country for foreign investment and a growing global LNG marketplace, Mr Wangdi said.

"Back in 2010, we decided to develop and invest in an offshore terminal for Bangladesh, seeing economic success stories backed by sustainable GDP (gross domestic product) growth, healthy foreign exchange reserve, stable political environment and passion for further development," he said.

Since then, the country has further developed tremendously with a rise in energy demand too, the Excelerate executive justified.

Bangladesh will need to import 30 million tonnes of LNG per year to fuel industries, power plants and fertiliser plants by 2041 as domestic gas reserves are depleting fast.

A report made by Copenhagen-based research firm Ramboll in association with Geological Survey of Denmark and EQMS Consulting Limited made the disclosures.

According to Petrobangla, the country's current gas output is hovering around 3,100 mmcfd, including imported LNG, against the demand for some 4,000 mmcfd.

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