Date: Wed, 20 Aug 97 08:26:47 CDT
From: Naeem Mohaiemen <>
Subject: Bangladesh: PETROBANGLA experts defect to US Oil Companies

Petrobangla experts defect to US Oil Companies

By Sharier Khan, Daily Star, 18 August 1997

Petrobangla's Operation Directorate, which plays a vital role in monitoring activities of foreign oil and gas companies in Bangladesh, has become virtually inoperative due to manpower shortage. There is no General Manager in the Petroleum Concession Division (PCD) under the Operation Directorate while one of its two managers resigned recently. The Director of Operation has gone on a three-month leave from this month, official sources said.

One of the five Deputy General Managers in the PCD retired few months ago but he was not replaced. The PCD is the prime unit of the Operation Directorate. Among its many important works, the PCD negotiates with foreign oil and gas companies and monitors their activities after an agreement is signed. The Operation Directorate is now being temporarily headed by Petrobangla Chairman Mosharraf Hossain who is also heading its Study Division.

Besides, three of the four other components of the Operation Directorate are being headed by Directors of Petrobangla on temporary basis. The Director of Planning is heading the Project Coordination Division, Director of Finance is heading the Environment and Safety Division and Director of Mines is heading the Production and Marketing Division. Four months ago, PCD General Manager Fariduddin Ahmed resigned from Petrobangla to join an American oil and gas company. He was replaced by Md Emdadul Hoq on temporary basis. But last month, Hoq quit his post due to health reasons.

PCD Manager M Jasim Uddin submitted his resignation letter few weeks ago. Sources said that he would soon be joining an American oil company working in Bangladesh. Such a situation is prevailing at a time when the government has floated the second round bidding for hydrocarbon exploration in 15 blocks in the country. When the bidding process is expected to be completed in December 15 and at least a dozen Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) are expected to be signed, the Operation Directorate would assign its officials to form Joint Review Committees (JRC) against each PSC.

"There should be three Petrobangla representatives with sufficient knowledge about hydrocarbon exploration in each of the JRCs," said a source. "It means, after December, Petrobangla will need more competent officials, specially in the Operation Directorate. The present set-up does not even support the existing five PSCs and therefore there is virtually no monitoring of the activities of foreign oil companies." Absence of monitoring could be very disastrous, said a source pointing to the Magurchhara gasfield explosion. "There was hardly any monitoring of the work plan and drilling operation in Magurchhara. Had there been proper monitoring, Occidental (the US explorer) would have made a stronger casing and could avert the disaster there."The sources said, there has been dissatisfaction among the officials and employees of the under-staffed Operation Directorate for a long time. "There should be a separate pay scale for the Petrobangla," said an official of the organisation. "Otherwise more experienced and competent people will leave this organisation to join foreign oil companies which are offering lucrative pay." The working environment of Petrobangla should be made more attractive to encourage creative work of its officials. "There are lots of efficient manpower in this organisation who are now lacking drive to take new challenges."