ONGC Seeking Route Through Bangladesh for Tripura Gas

ONGC is pushing for a 345-km pipeline through a land corridor over Bangladesh to unlock surplus gas from its fields in Tripura, for transportation to West Bengal.

ONGC's proposal coincides with a huge gas find off the Vishakhapatnam coast by a consortium of Reliance Industries and Canada's Niko Resources that may make Unocal's plan, to sell piped gas from Bangladesh's Bibiyana fields, redundant. The plan has been hanging fire for some time now, owing to political opposition faced by Dhaka.

Petroleum secretary BK Chaturvedi said the oil ministry was yet to ask the external affairs ministry to take up the issue with Dhaka. "We are waiting for the Bangladesh government to decide on the issue of piped gas sales to India," Chaturvedi said. He said if Dhaka finally agrees to sell gas, the Tripura gas too could flow through the Unocal pipeline.

ONGC chairman Subir Raha, however, did not see any political dimension to his company's plan. "We are only seeking permission to bring our own pipeline through Bangladesh and it will not affect that country's assets in any way."

ONGC has capped production in Tripura at 10 million cubic meters of gas daily against a capacity of 45 million cubic meters a day in view of poor regional demand and problems of feeding the gas into the national pipeline network. The surplus gas can take care of the eastern region.

A Bangladesh construction company, Mohona Holding Ltd, is also seeking Dhaka's permission to build a similar pipeline. It has said that this pipeline could also be used by India in the eventuality of gas imports from Myanmar, where ONGC has stake in exploration blocks. Mohona is also reported to have sounded out GAIL on this.

The pipeline could be built from Akhauro near Agartala to Bongaon near Kolkata, via Komilla in Bangladesh.