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A productive way out of the LNG dilemma



by Eng Parakrama Jayasinghe

Both Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) which recently saw a sharp price increase and is now the preferred cooking fuel even in some rural areas, and yet-to-be-used Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) have received widespread public attention.

Natural Gas (NG) , which is mostly Methane (CH4) , the fossil fuel promoted as the alternative for dirty coal used for power generation, has to be brought in to the country in concentrated form liquefied at low temperature for transport logistics and economies. This makes it LNG when the source of supply is foreign. We will therefore have to depend on LNG as long as it is imported and would also need the storage and regasification facilities such as the Floating Storage and Regasification Units (FSRU) to convert the LNG to the form usable at a power plant. These are the issues under hot debate right now.

Ignoring the sordid details of the major decision making processes of Sri Lanka, particularly in the energy sector, let us face the realities

* A 350 MW power plant designed to use natural gas is being built without any arrangements in place for the supply of the gas needed.

* The 300 MW Yugadhanawi power plant, pushed as designed for easy conversion for the use of Natural Gas, has been running on low sulfur furnace oil as expensive as diesel since 2011.

* The natural gas price in the world is soaring compared to what it was when it appeared to be the best option to get away from coal

* Renewable energy based electricity is now undoubtedly cheaper than any form of fossil fuel based generation including NG , and this is true for Sri Lanka too.

* There is a proven indigenous natural gas reserve in Mannar in Blocks M2 in close proximity to the 900 MW Norochcholai coal power plant

* Coal prices have gone through the roof making coal power, once considered the cheapest when all its ill effects are ignored, is no longer an option financially, economically, environmentally and socially

* Sri Lanka has declared a policy to achieve a 70% contribution by RE sources for electricity generation by 2030, and an international commitment to reach zero carbon emission status by 2050

* There is significant interest backed by actual commitments and multi million dollar investments for the purchase of the Mannar data, by big players in the oil and gas industry targeting the balance blocks offered by Sri Lanka for exploration. This process is underway, supported by an immediate captive demand for the proven sources to be developed

* Sri Lanka is in the throes of a foreign exchange crisis which makes an offer of US $ 250 Million to appear as manna from heaven. However the annual drain of over $ 4,000 Million for the import of fossil fuels, of which nearly $ 1,000 Million is consumed for power generation, is the main contributor to the crisis which is exacerbating due to the current world trends.

* In the government sector, the left hand does not seem to know what the right hand is doing

* Thus a national asset in a company making good profits is being sold through a midnight deal by the Treasury owning the shares, accepting conditions gravely affecting the performance of the Ministry of Power and Energy and the plans and programs of the Ministry of Energy, without any consultation with them.

* In this background it is worthwhile considering if there is still a way out and to eat the cake and keep it. This can be shown to be possible.

The Current State of Play in the Electricity Sector

There has been doomsday predictions of impending energy shortages in the past, most recent being in 2019, which did not come to pass. The next prediction is for 2023 unless the present dependence on imported fossil fuels is arrested. This may come true not because of lack of generation capacity but due to inability to pay for the import of fossil fuels – both oil and coal.

There has been some progress in the development of indigenous renewable energy which fortunately for us is non-fuel based in case of wind and solar. Some impediments imposed by vested interests on this progress has now been removed by the present administration and coupled with the laudable target to achieve 70% RE by 2030 would help accelerate this progress. This goal clearly limits the space available for non-renewable power generation. As the table below indicates there is no room to add any more fossil fuel based power plants including Natural Gas, except perhaps as replacement for the units due to be retired shortly at the end of their economic life.


1. Projected total electricity demand in 2030

2. Fossil fuel generation allowable under 70% RE scenario

3. Renewable Energy Capacity to be reached by 2030 to achieve 70% RE target

Therefore the 350 MW Subadhanwi Power Plant under construction may have a role to play as several plants in the Kelanitissa complex are due to be retired.

Although the commitment to achieve zero emission by 2050 would be further challenged by the target of carbon free power generation by 2040, the introduction of natural gas (also a carbon emitter) as a transitional source of fuel to occupy the 30% space up to 2030 is not illogical.

The game plan

As stated above there is no room for adding any more NG power plants at Kerawalapitiya or for fuel switching at Kelanistissa, proposed as the means of absorbing the minimum Take or Pay (TOP) condition of 35 Million MBTU per year in the present deal with New Fotress Energy ( NFE) . Therefore the suggestion that we will only pay for the 25 Million MBTU per year that we can consume, during the first five years and the balance would be accumulated, but nevertheless is payable, will be a Damocles Sword hanging over us. This would also be a strategy to extend the contract for a further five year period. It is futile to make calculations of the amount we have to pay, for something we will not consume at present, as the crystal ball is quite cloudy as to the rate at which the NG prices would escalate. The recent price trends shown below is a good indication.

As such depending on imported natural gas which makes it LNG is not an option we should pursue, if not for any reason other than the drain on the foreign exchange.

Do we have an option? Fortunately based on the opinion of the officials of the Petroleum Development Authority of Sri Lanka (PDASL) now formally established under the Act No 21 of October 8, 2021, we do have a more attractive option. The hard work of these officials who never lost faith in spite of setbacks, unequivocally confirm the proven resources in the Block M2 in Mannar named Barracuda and Dorado of the presence of almost 1.85 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas (mid-level estimate). This is equivalent to 1,850 Million MBTU, to be compared to the present numbers being bandied about, of 175 Million MBTU over five years as the TOP offered by the NFE. There is adequate gas to operate these two power plants for over 50 years from this one gas field alone.

The prospects of the wider Mannar Basin, inc. Block M2, is estimated to hold 9 TCF of Natural Gas based on analysis of all available data.

So we can operate the Norochcholai, Yugadhanawi and Sobhadhanawi power plants for 30 years with our own gas, if we take the trouble to develop these two reservoirs alone.

But naturally we do not have the expertise or the economic capacity to develop this resource and would need a competent company in the Oil and Gas industry to come to a contractual arrangement with Sri Lanka. May I mention in passing that I hope these negotiations will be done by competent people who have interest of Sri Lanka as the utmost aim, while accepting the realities of the commercial world.

Take or Pay for Natural Gas Development in Mannar

As much as a supplier of an FSRU and supply of LNG would expect a minimum guaranteed of off take, the potential developer of our own gas fields would also have similar expectations, which we cannot deny. It is up to Sri Lanka to evaluate the minimum quantities we can afford to consume without having to pay for gas or services beyond that amount. This becomes even more critical when that payment will need to be in dollars that we don’t have.

It has often been said that the minimum off take that would be acceptable would be in the range of 1000 MW of power generation. This is verified by the NFE terms which targets the two plants at Kerawalpitiya adding up to 650 MW and the passing references to another power plant of capacity 350 MW at the same location, which has not received much attention. It is clear that this cannot happen if we accept the 70% RE target.

But how can we reach the 1,000 MW target but not violate the 70% RE target? Fortunately the recent events have opened a most attractive opportunity to offer a viable level of off take without having to construct any new power plants. The phenomenal rise in the coal prices now exceeding $ 240 per MT at source, could be a blessing in disguise in many ways. No amount of fancy accounting can now prove the cost of coal power generation to be at an acceptable level, even if we can find the dollars to buy the coal.

So the most obvious step to be taken is to covert the three units of 300 MW coal power plants at Norochcholai to operate on natural gas from our own gas resources. Not only does this not require any FSRUs, as the gas will be supplied in gaseous form, which can be pumped directly to the power plant, we will not have to pay for the gas in dollars. There would be some payment on the extraction, processing and piping costs. But this is not linked to any world gas prices. However, the benefits that would accrue, financially, economically and environmentally are massive and too numerous to list here.

Before anyone objects to this proposal by saying that this is not proven technology or has not been done anywhere, I must say that over 100 coal plants have been converted to gas in USA alone.

No doubt this kind of leap would require much planning and analysis in addition to the political wisdom and will. Some temporary measures would need to be taken if the planned time schedules are disturbed. But the realities on the ground and the dire situation faced by Sri Lanka presently and in the foreseeable future, behooves us to look for innovative solutions and maximize the utilization of our own resources that nature has bestowed on us.

But as mentioned before, the principle ingredient required is the commitment to achieve the best for Sri Lanka and the integrity of the decision makers. These unfortunately has been the missing ingredients in all of the past events.

I await responses from those who can appreciate the validity and value of these proposals, as well as those from among the doubting Thomas’s to which I will respond, as the space limits me to preempt such queries.

Has Sri Lanka got the courage to reject the current proposals driven by short term expediencies and possibly other reasons, which will definitely block any chances of our chances of ever developing our proven resources and take this step to make us a net energy exporter?

(E Mail : Telephone : 0777269970)

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Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement



Protesters demanding local goverment elections

by Jehan Perera

The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.

The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.

The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.


The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.

So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.

On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.


The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.

There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.

It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.

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Sing-along… Down Memory Lane



Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!

I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.

It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.

Melantha Perera: President of Moratuwa Arts Forum

I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),

The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.

Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.

During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.

Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.

Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.

The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.

Down Memory Lane


Fun time for the audience Down Memory Lane

Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.

The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,

Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.

President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”

Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).

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‘Ranpota’ hitmaker



Nimal Jayamanne

CATCH 22 for

‘Ranpota’ hitmaker Nimal Jayamanne has got a new outfit going, made up of veteran musicians.

The band is called CATCH 22 and they, officially, started performing at The Warehouse (TWH), on 2nd March 2023.

The members are Nimal Jayamanne, R. Sumith Jayaratne, Duminda Sellappruma, Keerthi Samarasekara and Sajith Mutucumarana.

Says Nimal: “I took this name (CATCH 22) as a mark of respect to the late and great Hassan Musafer, who was the drummer of the original Catch 22.

You could catch Nimal in action, on Thursday evenings, at TWH, from 7 pm onwards.

Till recently, Nimal, who underwent a cataract operation, on his left eye, last week, was with Warehouse Legends, and has this to say about them:

“Thank you Warehouse Legends for letting me be an active member of your team, during the past year and 14 days. I wish you all the best.”

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