Powering The Future: Maheshkhali’s Transformation Into An Energy Mega Center – Analysis

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Nestled within the expanse of the Bay of Bengal lies Maheshkhali Island, a solitary hilly expanse in the nation that the Bangladeshi government envisions transforming into a thriving energy mega hub. With a bold objective of establishing power plants and an LNG terminal by 2027, this visionary initiative aims to drive the nation’s economic growth and achieve self-sufficiency in the realms of power and fuel.

Additionally, the Matarbari deep-sea port in Moheshkhali upazila of Cox’s Bazar is slated for a transformative evolution, evolving into a center for logistics, energy, and manufacturing. This calculated effort is positioned to assume a pivotal role in streamlining cargo transportation, making a substantial contribution to the region’s overall expansion.

In the Moheshkhali-Matarbari vicinity, extensive development is underway, encompassing two power plants, five terminals for LNG and LPG, an oil storage and refinery, and a 220-kilometer pipeline designed to offload fuel oil from the sea. The power plant is projected to commence operations in 2024, with approximately 58 percent of the project already completed. The government envisions transforming Maheshkhali Island into a prominent energy mega hub, capitalizing on its strategic location and abundant resources. Additionally, the inaugural deep-sea port in the country is designed to accommodate large mother vessels, streamlining the transshipment and transit of import-export cargo. This development is poised to stimulate the establishment of new local industries, fostering overall economic growth.

Furthermore, there is a comprehensive masterplan in place for constructing integrated infrastructure throughout the region. Alongside initiatives in logistics and manufacturing, energy projects like the 1,200-megawatt ultra-supercritical coal-based power plant in Matarbari union are also in progress. The region holds immense potential to attract foreign direct investment, contingent upon the establishment of sufficient port facilities and road connectivity.

Elevated 14 meters above sea level and spanning 1,604 acres, the island provides an optimal canvas for the realization of this grand vision. The envisioned hub will incorporate a 14-kilometer sea canal, two jetties, an imported power plant, as well as facilities for oil storage and a liquefied natural gas terminal. On the island, a total of 37 projects are currently in progress, encompassing the development of solar power plants and other initiatives. The infrastructure for these endeavors has been established across the majority of the upazila’s two islands, Matarbari and Dhalghata. This holistic strategy underscores the nation’s dedication to overhauling its energy landscape and catalyzing overall economic advancement. The anticipated outcomes include a substantial improvement in the country’s energy challenges and a noteworthy enhancement of the socio-economic panorama in the region. The completion of all planned projects in Maheshkhali is expected to contribute significantly to sustainability in the long run.

In a strategic move away from conventional fuels and in response to the challenges posed by climate change, Bangladesh is actively working towards increasing its reliance on renewable energy to reach 40% by the year 2041. Maheskhali Island is poised to be a key player in this endeavor, with plans to generate a total of 13,560MW of power. This ambitious initiative aligns with Bangladesh’s commitment, declared at the 2021 Glasgow climate summit, to reduce carbon emissions by 89.47 million tonnes by 2030. The overarching goal includes a multifaceted approach, emphasizing the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and conservation practices.

An integral component of the initiative involves the establishment of a groundbreaking undersea oil pipeline. This pioneering pipeline, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, is set to transform the landscape of energy transportation within the nation. By obviating the need for lighter vessels to transfer petroleum products from large tankers to refineries, the pipeline not only significantly reduces the time required but also results in annual cost savings amounting to Tk800 crore. The successful trial of unloading crude oil from tankers to floating moorings and subsequently pumping it through a 16km pipeline marks a significant milestone, laying the groundwork for future aspirations of extending the pipeline to the Eastern Refinery depot. This extension will further bolster the resilience of the nation’s energy infrastructure. The Maheshkhali energy hub represents more than an effort to enhance the power and fuel sectors; it embodies a commitment to sustainability and socio-economic development. Additionally, the implementation of the project is poised to generate employment opportunities for the local population, ushering in an era of advancement and prosperity.

A key objective of the Maheshkhali energy hub is to bolster energy security in Bangladesh. Through the diversification of energy sources and the attainment of self-sufficiency, the country seeks to diminish reliance on imports and solidify its standing in the worldwide energy arena. The favorable outcomes of this initiative reach beyond economic considerations, setting in motion waves of advancement and growth that will empower Bangladesh for generations to follow.

Initially, the metamorphosis of Maheshkhali Island into an energy mega hub marks a courageous stride toward a more promising and secure future to fulfill Bangladesh’s energy requirements. Ambitious proposals for the establishment of a 6,000 MW ultra-supercritical coal-fired power station and a 3,000 MW LNG-based combined cycle power plant hold significant promise for augmenting energy capacity. Bangladesh envisions positioning itself as a regional energy frontrunner by securing 5,000 acres of land for the implementation of these projects.

The government aims to diversify its energy sources, leveraging the strategic location and abundant resources of the island. This strategic move is intended to reduce reliance on expensive imports. The attainment of energy sovereignty through these measures will shield the country from fluctuations in the global energy market and enhance its resilience against external energy shocks. The ultimate outcome is envisioned as a more stable and self-sufficient economy.

In the second aspect, as the energy hub project takes shape, it will set off a cascade of economic growth and development spanning multiple sectors. The establishment and functioning of power plants, LNG terminals, and oil storage facilities will generate a diverse range of job opportunities, fostering economic prosperity at both local and regional levels. Three Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are slated for development in Moheshkhali. Additionally, non-governmental organizations will oversee the establishment of food warehouses in the area.

The aspiring scope of this visionary initiative is poised to draw the attention of foreign investors and foster international partnerships. This influx of crucial capital and expertise is expected to significantly contribute to the advancement of Bangladesh’s energy sector, driving further economic expansion. The island is slated to become the central hub for the country’s imported petroleum, hosting numerous LNG ports and one specifically dedicated to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Additionally, a pipeline will facilitate the transportation of all imported oil from this hub to Chattogram and Dhaka.

In the third aspect, the integration of sustainable energy solutions, notably solar power plants, within the energy hub underscores Bangladesh’s unwavering commitment to environmental stewardship. By embracing cleaner and greener energy sources, the nation is poised to make a significant impact on global initiatives aimed at mitigating climate change. The incorporation of environmentally friendly technology and practices not only signifies a dedication to reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also positions Bangladesh as a responsible global participant in the ongoing battle against climate change. This forward-thinking approach contributes not only to the nation’s energy needs but also to the broader global effort to create a sustainable and environmentally conscious future.

In the fourth dimension, the Maheshkhali energy hub project places a significant emphasis on sustainability and socio-economic development, directly influencing the lives of local communities. Anticipating annual savings of at least Tk 800 crore, the project is not only financially prudent but also envisions a positive impact on the economic landscape. The generation of employment opportunities during both the construction and operation phases of the hub is poised to elevate the standard of living for the island’s residents and neighboring regions. This inclusive approach ensures that the benefits of the energy hub extend beyond the national scale, creating tangible improvements in the livelihoods of the local populace.

Furthermore, the provision of dependable and cost-effective energy to industries and households is poised to act as a catalyst for socio-economic growth. This holistic approach aims to foster entrepreneurship, enhance educational opportunities, and improve access to healthcare. Ultimately, it empowers the people of Bangladesh to lead more prosperous and fulfilling lives by creating an environment conducive to economic advancement and overall well-being.

The metamorphosis of Maheshkhali Island into an energy mega hub stands as a pivotal milestone in Bangladesh’s quest for energy security, sustainable development, and socio-economic prosperity. The government’s vision extends beyond energy infrastructure, encompassing the construction of railways and roadways to facilitate the seamless transportation of products to and from the deep seaport. This comprehensive approach underscores the nation’s commitment to creating a robust and interconnected foundation for enduring growth and prosperity.

At the deep seaport, two terminals measuring 300 and 460 meters in length will be constructed, streamlining the direct transportation of products from large vessels. The initial phase of construction is expected to conclude by 2026, featuring the establishment of three container terminals in the subsequent phase, gradually elevating the terminal’s capacity.

In the unfolding narrative of the energy hub, Bangladesh is poised to emerge as a regional pioneer, leveraging its energy sovereignty to steer towards a more resilient, sustainable, and eco-friendly future for future generations.

The realization of the Maheshkhali Island’s energy mega hub vision marks a transformative juncture for Bangladesh. Beyond the establishment of power plants and an LNG terminal, this project signifies the nation’s steadfast commitment to attaining energy self-reliance, fostering sustainable growth, and creating a brighter future for its citizens.

Syed Raiyan Amir

Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at The Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA)

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