Unocal Hopes To Start Importing Gas To India Next Year

The Bangladesh subsidiary of Unocal Corp hopes to receive approval by June of 2002 from Dhaka to start exporting gas to India. Unocal Bangladesh Ltd submitted a plan in October to lay a 30-inch, 847-mile pipeline to carry 500 million cubic feet of gas per day from Bibiyana field in northeast Bangladesh to the Indian capital of New Delhi.

On Wednesday, Bangladesh's High Court blocked for at least three months a government move to export natural gas to India through a pipeline. If the approval comes through as expected, commercial operations should start by 2005. Unocal officials said Bangladesh could hope to earn a minimum of $3.7 billion over a 20-year period if the project is approved.

Bangladesh's opposition parties, including former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League, and local experts are opposed to the export of gas unless there is a surplus to meet domestic needs for the next 50 years. Unocal officials, however, said the fears of Bangladeshi opposition parties were misplaced. Bangladesh's natural gas reserves of 61 trillion cubic feet equals almost 170 years of gas supplies, according to a statement by a Unocal spokesman. Bibiyana's proven plus probable reserves account for less than five percent of Bangladesh's currently estimated resource base. Any further delays in the project and the construction season would be missed pushing completion out to another year.