The Maitree Super Thermal Power Project: Evolving Bangladesh-India Energy Partnership

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On Nov. 1, 2023, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina underscored the joint inauguration of three development schemes aided by India as a manifestation of the distinctive amicable rapport and reciprocal collaboration between Dhaka and New Delhi. Anticipating the further bolstering of the existing relationship, she expressed optimism regarding the prospective achievements that Bangladesh and India will attain through continued mutual cooperation. Prime Minister Hasina’s statements were delivered subsequent to the virtual inauguration of the aforementioned Indian-assisted development projects alongside her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, with both leaders connecting from Dhaka and New Delhi, respectively. During the inaugural event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi articulated his satisfaction with the ongoing celebration of the achievements stemming from the collaborative efforts between India and Bangladesh, highlighting the continuous ascension of their relations. He further committed to providing steadfast support to Bangladesh’s transformation into a developed, prosperous, and technologically advanced nation by 2041. Additionally, PM Modi accentuated the notable progress accomplished in the past nine years, surpassing the advancements made in preceding decades. One of the commissioned projects includes Unit 2 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project.

In the context of the ongoing global energy crisis triggered by the Ukraine conflict and supply chain disruptions, numerous nations are actively seeking to broaden their energy cooperation. In this regard, Bangladesh holds a favorable position as it had initiated this project before the crisis unfolded. The significance of the next portion of the write-up lies in its comprehensive elucidation of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project and the historical development of the Bangladesh-India energy partnership, delineating its technical components and broader consequences. Moreover, it assesses the project’s effects on Bangladesh’s energy security and regional advancement, emphasizing its eco-friendly measures, which can aid policymakers in evaluating its economic sustainability. Additionally, by highlighting the joint launch by the Prime Ministers of both nations, it underscores the robust diplomatic relations and collaborative endeavors between Bangladesh and India, underscoring their shared commitment to regional advancement and energy integration.

The Project: The Maitree Super Thermal Power Project

The Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, financed through the Indian Concessional Financing Scheme loan of USD 1.6 billion, is a substantial 1320 MW (2×660) Super Thermal Power Plant (MSTPP) situated in the Rampal area within the Khulna Division of Bangladesh. Implemented by the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (Private) Limited (BIFPCL), the project represents a 50:50 Joint Venture between India’s NTPC Ltd and the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). The project’s first unit was officially inaugurated in a joint ceremony by the Prime Ministers of both countries in September 2022. Positioned in the Bagerhat district of the Khulna division, Bangladesh, the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant is positioned approximately 14km from the Mongla port and about the same distance from the Sundarbans mangrove area. The power plant infrastructure encompasses two steam-based 660MW power generation units, inclusive of pulverised coal-fired supercritical boiler units, steam turbines, and generators. Each boiler unit incorporates components such as a regenerative air heater, boiler proper, induced draft (ID) fans, and forced draft (FD) fans. Furthermore, the power plant’s operational setup involves the utilization of light diesel fuel oil for purposes including boiler start-up, flame stabilization, and low-load operation. The steam flow specifications at the superheater outlet of the boilers are projected to reach 2,120t/h at 568°C, while the steam pressure is estimated to be around 256kg/cm². Similarly, the steam flow at the re-heater outlet is anticipated to be 1,708.2t/h at 596°C. The steam generators are designed with a balanced draft furnace, characterized as a single reheat type conducive to outdoor installation. To facilitate gas pass arrangements, a single-pass (Tower type) or two-pass type will be adopted. The boilers are equipped to support a variable pressure operation boiler maximum continuous rating (BMCR) spanning from 30% to 100%, with and without a 5% throttle margin, while also accommodating low NOx formation. Notably, the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant will boast a stack height exceeding 275m, featuring a twin flue steel-lined reinforced concrete chimney as a distinguishing structural element.

Evolution of Bangladesh-India Energy Cooperation: A Historical Analysis of Interconnected Infrastructural Initiatives

The collaborative efforts between Bangladesh and India in the realm of power industry initiation commenced with the formalization of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 11 January 2010. Subsequently, marking a significant milestone in this partnership, the first cross-border connection between the two countries was activated on 5 October 2013. The power transfer capacity along the Behrampur-Bheramara link was further augmented to 1,000 MW on September 10, 2018, following the successful installation of a second 500 MW HVDC block at the Bheramara back-to-back station. To fortify the existing connectivity infrastructure and enhance operational resilience, an additional 400 kV double circuit line was constructed between Behrampur and Bheramara, with the initial circuit coming online on 14 June 2021. In a bid to establish further interlinkages, an extension from the North-Eastern region of India to Bangladesh (Tripura state) was established. This extension, realized through a 63-kilometre long, 400 kV double circuit line connecting Surjyamaninagar, India, and Comilla, Bangladesh, was officially commissioned on 17 March 2016. In addition, to foster closer energy ties, the recently inaugurated 131.57-kilometre ‘Indo-Bangla Friendship Pipeline,’ operational as of March 18, 2023, has been introduced to facilitate the importation of petroleum products, with a focus on diesel, from India. Consequently, the bilateral cooperation within the energy domain is deeply rooted in history, representing an enduring and time-honored collaboration between the two nations.

Analyzing the Impacts: The Maitree Super Thermal Power Project (Unit 2) and Its Implications for Bangladesh’s Energy Landscape.

As a significant advancement in reinforcing the collaborative efforts between India and Bangladesh in the power sector, the commissioning of Unit-I of the 2×660 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project and its successful synchronization with the national grid on August 15, 2022, resulted in the contribution of 91.7 MW of electricity to the national grid. Amidst the prevailing global energy crisis, the operationalization of the second unit is expected to provide an additional boost to the electricity supply.

This initiative stands as a testament to the demonstration of economic solidarity, specifically in the financing phase of Bangladesh’s development. The projected investment for the thermal power project is estimated at approximately $2 billion, with the financial closure being achieved in April 2017 through a financing agreement with the Indian EXIM Bank for the main plant engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) turnkey package. It is worth noting, the project’s construction commenced in April 2017.

The establishment of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant is poised to enhance energy security in Bangladesh. Utilizing Super Critical Technology, the plant has integrated various measures to actively mitigate environmental impact. Notably, the implementation of a Flue Gas Desulphurization System (FGD) with no bypass to regulate SOx emissions, an Integrated Effluent and Waste Management System to prevent Pasur River contamination, construction of the tallest Chimney in Bangladesh (at 275 m) for effective dispersion of flue gas emissions, installation of an advanced Ship Unloader for coal, and the utilization of High Grade imported coal with low Ash and Sulphur content are among the measures taken to minimize air and water pollution.

This development is expected to energize and empower the southern region of Bangladesh in various aspects. The energization of the 400 kV GIS Switchyard and Interconnecting Transformer of the Power Plant on April 6, 2022, has facilitated the wheeling of 400 kV power from the Payra Power Project to the 230 kV grid system of Bangladesh, enabling the Power Grid Corporation of Bangladesh to transmit additional power to the Khulna region to address peak demand.

The achievement underscores a crucial enhancement in Bangladesh’s energy landscape, ushering in a heightened level of diversity and resilience within the sector. By bolstering the stability of energy production, this milestone is poised to propel the nation’s development trajectory, providing a steady stream of power to an array of burgeoning industries. Moreover, it stands as a testament to India’s unwavering commitment, particularly in the realm of finance, specifically within the energy domain. Its far-reaching impact extends to positioning Bangladesh as a pivotal energy hub within the region, facilitating sub-regional energy connectivity. Notably, the journey towards becoming an energy connectivity hub necessitates first achieving self-sufficiency, and this pivotal accomplishment signifies Bangladesh’s significant stride towards that overarching goal.

– Syed Raiyan Amir is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in The Geopolitics [Link]