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Bangladesh eyes August deadline for deep-sea mooring project

  • Reazul Bashar,
    Published: 2021-09-10 12:16:16 BdST

The government is hoping to complete within a year the construction of an ambitious deep-sea single point mooring (SPM) installation in Maheshkhali with an aim to cut the time and cost of unloading crude oil from tankers.

When operational, the SPM is expected to save an estimated Tk 8 billion on transportation costs a year while markedly reducing the time for offloading fuel, according to Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation Chairman ABM Azad.

The authorities are eyeing an August 2022 deadline to wrap up the project, which is already lagging behind schedule.

Bangladesh imported 5.2 million tonnes of fuel in the last fiscal year. But the infrastructural limitations at the Chattogram Port and navigability issues along the Karnaphuli channel prevent the oil tankers from offloading fuel directly.

State-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation's Eastern Refinery is the sole fuel oil refinery of the country. It can refine 1.5 million tonnes of crude oil annually.

The oil tankers anchor at deep sea and lighter vessels take the oil to the depot. It takes 11 days to offload one tanker with a 100,000 DWT capacity.

The government initially greenlighted the project, titled 'Installation of Single Point Mooring With Double Pipeline', in 2010. But a lack of funds meant the project could not go ahead at the time.

The mooring point has been set in the deep sea, 9 km southwest from Matarbari in Maheshkhali. When the mother vessel will come to the mooring point, the oil will be pumped out and siphoned to Kalaramchhara storage tank. Then it will be pumped to the Eastern Refinery pipeline.

Time to offload a tanker will drop to 48 hours from 11 days once the SPM starts running, said Project Director Sharif Hasnat.

Eastern Refinery Limited is implementing the project under a G2G contract between Bangladesh and China. The Export-Import Bank of China is providing a loan of Tk 45 billion for the Tk 60 billion project.

A total of six storage tanks are being built across 90 acres of land at Kalaramchhara, found during a visit to the area on Tuesday. Three of them are for refined oil and the others for non-refined oil.

Each storage tanker for refined oil has a capacity to store 50,000 cubic metres and those designed for non-refined oil can store up to 30,000 cubic metres.

Bangladesh will be able to store more oil once the SPM starts, according to the project director said. More than 200 local and foreign workers are working on the project, and their number will rise further. Already, a 193 km pipeline has been laid down.

Crude oil and diesel will be unloaded from the mooring point through different pipelines, he said. Then, the crude oil and diesel will flow to the refinery from the Maheshkhali storage through two separate pipelines.

The single point mooring will arrive from China next month, Sharif Hasnat said.

It will help increase the productivity of Eastern Refinery, BPC Chairman Azad told reporters. “It’ll work like a backward linkage for the refinery.”