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Dhaka Sunday,  Nov 18, 2018

PDB to import 1 lakh tonnes of coal for Barapukuria plant

SHAHED SIDDIQUE

The Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) has issued Requests For Proposals (RFPs) for importing 1 lakh metric tonnes of coal to run the Barapukhuria thermal power plant.

Under the RFP, interested parties will have to submit their price quotations within 31 August. However, the Adani Group, an Indian conglomerate, has quoted its price at USD 181 per tonne of coal well before the deadline, sources told.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the proposal to import 1 lakh tonnes of coal recently, just before the Eid vacation started.

“The government has already floated a tender for importing 1 lakh tonnes of coal, we will import a certain amount of coal to build a stock. But it would not be on regular basis,” State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid told journalists at his ministry office at secretariat.

Prior to that, a high-powered committee, headed by an additional secretary, returned from Singapore on 12 August. The committee members were on a positive note after a series of meetings with 13 international coal-exporting companies based in Indonesia, Australia and South Africa.

After the meeting with the exporters, at least four international companies evinced interest to export coal to Bangladesh, sources said, with some company officials having already met government officials.

“We got Adani’s offer price at USD 181 per tonne at the border, but if we carry the coal to the location of the power plant, the price would be more than USD 200, which is unbelievably high,” said a government official.

“I cannot talk at this juncture, before the biddings are closed,” BPDB chairman Khaled Mahmud told.

Power Division officials said Glencore and other international companies could offer cheaper coal than Adani but the RFP stipulates that the coal has to be carried up to the Barapukuria power plant. “Under the RFP, the suppliers will bring the coal to the border or seaport and the government’s appointed consultant will measure the coal at that point. The supplier will then transport the coal to the power plant,” explained an official.

“We investigated and learned that Adani Group does not have any original source of coal, it is like a broker. Which is why its price is so high,” a BPDB official informed.

On July 17, some BPDB officials found that around 1.44 lakh tonnes of coal had disappeared from the yards of Barapukuria coal mine. After the incident, the power station was shut down on account of coal shortage. In accordance with the US ranking system (American Society for Testing and Materials or ASTM test method), the coal from Barapukuria is graded as highly volatile bituminous coal. Which is why the machinery in the Barapukuria thermal power plant is tuned to coal of such high grade.

The plant has three units with a capacity of around 500MW. It consumes 5,200 tonnes of coal per day. But after a new face of the mine is developed, it will be able to supply only 3,000 tonnes. So, the rest of the coal would have to be imported from the international market. The Barapukuria power plant buys coal from Barapukuria mine at a price of USD 130 per tonne.

Sources said the price of imported coal should not be higher than that sourced locally, after considering the carrying cost from Mongla port to Barapukuria. The government never imports coal from international markets. But the private sector annually imports 60 lakh tonnes of coal to feed brickfields. State minister for power and energy Nasrul Hamid told reporters yesterday that the Barapukuria power plant would run smoothly from October 2018, when the coal mine will start producing at full capacity. The power plant, however, will start at a minimum level from September 2018.

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