Special Correspondent : The consumption of natural gas has multiplied compared to its discovery in 15 years, revealed data available with the state-run Petrobangla. Since 1999, both state-run and foreign companies have discovered three fields -Bangura and Srikail in Comilla and Sundulpur in Noakhali – with 750 billion cubic feet (CFT)of recoverable gas. But during the 15 years, 8,140 billion CFT of gas have been consumed. Such high gas consumption along with a low discovery was a ‘big threat’ to the country’s energy security, experts said. ‘The reserve has been fast depleting at a rate of about 1,000 billion cft a year,’ one energy expert requesting anonymity said. Unless the situation changes, transmission and distribution of gas, power plants, industrial power generators, CNG filling stations and fertiliser factories would face serious disruptions. ‘Several million CNG-run vehicles and more than two million domestic consumers will also lose their access to gas,’ another expert who is a teacher of petroleum and mineral resources in Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) said. There has not been any achievement in oil and gas exploration after the discovery of the Bibiyana field in 1998, he said. The lack of exploration has forced the concerned authorities to extract gas at an excessive rate from the existing reserves which is a matter of concern, he said. The Bangura field in Comilla with a recoverable reserve of about 500 billion cubic feet of gas was discovered by Tullow in 2004, almost a half of which – 235 billion cubic feet of gas – has already been extracted. In August 2011, the Bapex, discovered a 50 bcf gas field at Sundulpur in Noakhali in August 2011 and a 161 bcf field at Srikail in Comilla near the Bangura field in July 2012. US oil company Chevron failed to discover a potential gas reserve in Hydrocarbon Block 7 in Patuakhali and Moulovibazar while Bapex also failed to identify gas in Sunetra and Kapasia structures during the last few years of AL rule. The volume of recoverable natural gas in Rashidpur and Titas gas fields has, however, increased by about 1,500 bcf in two years after Petrobangla subsidiary Bapex had conducted three dimensional seismic surveys on the fields, experts recalled. The economy is likely to face serious problems as the gas supply would drop, obstructing power and industrial production and communications with entrepreneurs losing interest in investments in the industrial sector, experts said. Petrobangla has been trying to meet the growing demand for natural gas as it supplies about 2.3 billion cubic feet of gas a day against the demand for more than 3 bcf. The consumption of natural gas, now standing at more than 800 bcf, has experienced a huge growth in 15 years as the demand 14 years ago was less than 330 bcf a year. Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies(BIDS) research director Zaid Bakht recently told the media that the energy sector was running without a medium-to-long term plan and the supply and demand management has been done on an ad hoc basis.The expansion of demand for gas was unplanned, without taking into account the supply of the limited resource, he said. The government has attached importance to enhancing oil and gas exploration but there has been no significant discovery but the existing reserve is being rapidly exhausted. ‘We had discovered two fields in recent years. But the reserves are very small,” a Petrobangla official told The New Nation. ‘The country now does not have much potential structures unexplored,’ he added. Petrobangla was giving priority to oil and gas exploration in the Bay of Bengal and reassessing old fields if more gas could be extracted, he said. But the government continues to set up gas-fired power plants in both the public and private sector. According to the government plan, dependence on natural gas for power generation will increase to 79 per cent by 2015-16 financial year from 76 per cent in 2012-13 financial year.