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Bypass-Bangla options in pipeline

New Delhi, Jan. 16: The hydrocarbon establishment has come up with a bouquet of proposals to bypass Bangladesh if it insists on driving a hard bargain to let India import gas from Myanmar.

At least three options on the table allow India to ferry gas without using Bangladeshi territory, Gail chairman Prashanto Bannerjee said today.

According to one of the proposals, the pipeline can run directly from Myanmar to India through Tripura and Mizoram, circumventing Bangladesh. So far, the government has been talking about two land routes, both of which snake through Bangladesh.

The other two stand-by plans involve importing the gas through two offshore routes, which will also skirt Bangladesh. The gas could be ferried in ships as compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas.

The three countries agreed on the pipeline last week but the nuts and bolts have to be worked out. The alternative proposals are expected to add to India's bargaining power at a time when Bangladesh is insisting on tough economic conditions for allowing the pipeline to go through its territory.

Bangladesh has set three conditions. First, it wants the right to access hydro-electricity from Nepal and Bhutan through Indian territory and a trade corridor to these countries.

Second, India should import more goods from Bangladesh to help Dhaka bridge the huge trade deficit. Third, Dhaka is keen to reserve the right to access the gas pipeline.

Of the two proposed routes through Bangladesh, one envisages the pipeline from Myanmar entering India through Tripura. The line will then traverse through Bangladesh to re-enter India at Bongaon in Bengal from where it will be linked to Calcutta.

The other possible route for the pipeline could be through Bangladesh's Brahmanbaria border in the east from where it could cross into Bengal through the northern Rajshahi border. But the third land route option does not involve Bangladesh.

The offshore option is also being mooted as an alternative. Bannerjee said CNG transport is a viable option as it does not require a large investment. A ship can reach India's eastern coast from Myanmar in a day. He said Gail was in talks with EnerSea Transport of the US, which has experience in this field.

The Gail chairman said the length of the Myanmar-India pipeline would be between 600 km and 1,200 km, depending on the route that is selected. 'We are looking at transporting 28-30 million standard cubic metres of gas per day through the pipeline,' he added.

He said it would take two to three years to complete the pipeline once the project is cleared.

Bannerjee said he expected the gas from the Myanmar offshore field, held by ONGC-Videsh and Gail, to flow into India in five years.

The recoverable gas reserves in the field are estimated at 12 to 20 trillion cubic feet.

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