Leading business conglomerate Bashundhara group yesterday launched the country’s largest bitumen plant to meet the annual domestic hydrocarbon product demand. Bitumen is a binding organic material made from by-products of refined crude oil. It is widely used in road construction because it is easy to produce, is reusable, non-toxic, and a strong binder. Bashundhara Bitumen Plant, the first-ever private venture in Bangladesh for bitumen production, plans to produce over 850,000 tonnes of bitumen and asphalt annually.
The country’s annual demand for bitumen is around 500,000 tonnes, and nearly all of it is imported from various countries. Largely dependent on imports of bitumen, the state-owned Eastern Refinery Ltd (ERL) has the capacity to produce around 10 per cent of the domestic demand.Inaugurating the Bashundhara bitumen plant as the chief guest, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said this plant would usher in a new era for roads and highways construction in the country. “In the beginning of the Mujib year, this plant is a great addition to our country’s industrial sector,” said Kamal. He said, earlier, Bangladesh’s bitumen industry was mostly import-oriented. “But those imported bitumen is not suitable for our country’s weather. Besides, we couldn’t maintain quality of excellence after import. “But Bashundhara has come up with that solution. They plan to export bitumen abroad after meeting the domestic demand. This is a big achievement for Bangladesh,” said the finance minister. Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, who was the special guest at the event, said: “A large business group like the Bashundhara Group has always come up with products for the country’s development. The bitumen plant of the Bashundhara Group is an excellent addition to our industrial sector. It will solve the problem of finding high-quality home-grown bitumen.” Speaking on the occasion, Dr Shamim Z Basunia, eminent engineer and former BUET professor, said: “As of now, sub-standard bitumen is being imported in drums and then marketed in bulk after dissolving the bitumen crude from the drums. “After using the bulk bitumen of these unauthorised factories, road carpeting work gets hampered and the roads get dilapidated within a short time. The government is losing huge amounts of money by using such sub-standard bitumen.” Basunia has said now reputed business houses like Bashundhara have developed a state-of-the-art plant, and the problems of finding low-quality bitumen for the roads will be resolved. A concern of Bashundhara Oil and Gas Company Ltd, the Bashundhara Bitumen Plant was built on 65 acres in Pangaon area of South Keraniganj. The plant starts its journey with the goal of meeting the growing market demand, and has plans to export the material to neighbouring counties. The new facility is designed and constructed with brand new machines and has the capacity to process 1.7 million tonnes per year of feedstock to produce over 850,000 tonnes of materials. Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, chairman, Bashundhara Group, said: “The Bashundhara Group is launching the bitumen plant to support the government’s development initiatives. Initially, the plant has a target to meet the local demand. It has the facility to expand its production capacity to keep pace with the increasing demand. “We’ve a plan to export high-quality bitumen (both penetration and modified grades) to neighbouring countries, along with meeting the national demand.” He also said the new plant would create direct job opportunities for 1,000 people and indirect scope for well above 25,000. “The new facility’s ETP (Effluent Treatment Plant) will be the largest one among petroleum and chemical industries in the country,” he added.