July 23, 2014

Bitumen Update from Nigeria

Nigeria loses over N300 billion annually to massive importation of bitumen into the country, the Association of Bitumen Marketers and Distribution of Nigeria (ABIMD) has said.

This amount, the union said, could be used for other meaningful projects if the government had stopped importation of the product and encouraged its local production available at the Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company (KRPC).

Bitumen is a by-product of petroleum used for road construction and maintenance.
At a news conference in Kaduna on Tuesday, the National Vice Chairman of the association, Fred Nyabam, described the massive importation of bitumen into the country as a serious threat to the economic development of the nation.

He raised alarm over the activities of some few individuals who he described as ‘selfish individuals’ and ‘economic saboteurs,’ who he said had truncated all efforts made in the past to stop importation of bitumen into Nigeria and encourage local production.

“The brazen act of sabotage against the Nation is that over 60 per cent of all the Bitumen imported into Nigeria comes from a refinery in IRAN, whose Bitumen production capacity is not bigger than that of Kaduna Refinery,” he stated.

He, however, called for the intervention of the Federal Government to protect Nigerian bitumen products by reducing the cost of locally produced ones and stopping the importation in order to enhance local product.

Source- Nigerian Tribune

June 25, 2014

Greenest Refinery for Processing Bitumen & More Jobs

Despite last week's approval from the Canadian government, uncertainty still dogs Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline largely because of a vow from key aboriginal communities to block it.
Others in the oil industry are trying hard to avoid the mistakes Enbridge made when it comes to approaching Canada's powerful First Nations about projects that could contaminate their lands and waterways.
Pacific Future Energy Corp.'s recent refinery proposal is the latest example.

Earlier this month, the company unveiled plans for a $10 billion refinery in British Columbia that would convert Alberta's tar sands bitumen into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel for export to Asia and other markets. Pacific Future Energy pledged to form a "full partnership" with affected First Nations, provide permanent jobs and build the "greenest refinery in the world."

Enbridge's struggle to win acceptance for the Northern Gateway project "is a lesson in terms of how not to engage with First Nations," said Jeffrey Copenace, vice president of indigenous partnership for Pacific Future Energy. "The First Nations have been viewed as an impediment to business, historically in this country, both by governments and industry, and we feel that’s wrong."

Two other companies, Kitimat Clean Ltd. and Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings, have announced bitumen refining projects and taken steps to curry favor with British Columbia's indigenous groups. They have also promised jobs and less environmental risk compared to Northern Gateway's export plan.

"They're all trying to build themselves on the backs of how bad Northern Gateway has done things, and they figure if they are a little bit better that somehow people are going to fall all over themselves," said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, a coalition opposed to the Northern Gateway project. "They're all doing exactly the same thing. They're saying pick me, pick me, pick me. The reality is nobody's picking anybody."

The $7 billion Northern Gateway pipeline, which was approved by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 16, would transport diluted bitumen (dilbit) from Alberta to a proposed marine terminal on the northern coast of British Columbia. There, the dilbit would be loaded onto tankers and shipped to overseas markets.

That last part of the plan—carrying dilbit out to sea through fragile areas vital to First Nations' marine economy—became particularly controversial after an Enbridge pipeline leaked a million gallons of dilbit into a Michigan river. The 2010 incident alarmed British Columbians because emergency crews couldn't contain the spill and Enbridge has yet to fully cleanse the river of sunken globules of bitumen.

Backers of all three of the refinery projects have touted their proposals as environmentally less risky because they eliminate the need for tankers full of dilbit by converting it to fuel or light crude oil before exporting it. Pacific Future Energy would be filling export tankers with refined fuels, and those liquids would evaporate if spilled into the ocean, according to Samer Salameh, the company's executive chairman. Because of that, Salameh told Huffpost Alberta, the company's proposed refinery "is a solution to everybody's problem."
"We cannot risk the future of British Columbia’s cherished coast by shipping raw bitumen," Salameh said in Pacific Future Energy's June 10 announcement. Salameh believes it's in Canada's national interest to get Alberta's oil riches into international markets, but he said "it shouldn't be done at the sacrifice of B.C.'s coast or broader environment, and must be done in full partnership with First Nations."

Sterritt isn't convinced. Pacific Future Energy would still need to feed its coastal refinery with dilbit, which means it will eventually need a pipeline such as the Northern Gateway to deliver the heavy crude from Alberta.

"The one thing that most of these people seem to forget is that it's not just about the coast, it's also about transporting bitumen through the headwaters of the Fraser and the Mackenzie and the Skeena [rivers], and there are no guarantees of being able to avoid a spill there," Sterritt said.

Environmentalists concerned about climate change aren't likely to applaud the refinery plans, either, because they don't halt or reduce the carbon pollution that stems from extracting the tar sands oil, processing it and then burning the fuel derived from it.

"From a climate point of view, these refineries don't really make a lot of difference...as soon as more of that oil starts to get shipped [from Alberta], we have increased emissions," said Josha MacNab, director of British Columbia for the Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank based in Calgary. Switching from dilbit tankers to fuel-laden tankers isn’t a big improvement, she added, "Because any spill of any kind of fossil fuel is going to have a very damaging impact on our environment, and our ability to clean those up is questionable."

But the companies behind the refining proposals are optimistic. They believe they've found a way to boost support and quell environmental opposition to exporting Canada’s oil riches through British Columbia.
Their plans stress three factors that they say will differentiate the refinery projects from the Northern Gateway pipeline and export project. Those include:

+ A better relationship with First Nations. As Pacific Future Energy's Copenace put it, "I've heard of previous negotiations where companies go in with, 'this is your stake, and this is your percentage, these are your jobs, this is our route, and that’s how we’re going to do it—so sign here. That’s unacceptable in this day and age." Copenace has First Nations roots and served as deputy chief of staff to former Assembly of First Nations chief Shawn Atleo.

Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings, which announced a multifaceted export plan with a refinery in April 2014, is led by Calvin Helin, an author, businessman and First Nations leader in British Columbia. Partners include the B.C.-based Aquilini Group and David Tuccaro, a well-known Alberta aboriginal entrepreneur and oil sands investor.

+ More jobs. Pacific Future Energy said initial employment at its refinery would be in the hundreds, but that the payroll would grow to 3,000 jobs once it's expanded to its target capacity. Kitimat Clean’s project, which is backed by B.C. businessman and newspaper owner David Black, includes a $21 billion refinery, plus an oil pipeline, gas pipeline and tanker fleet. It said it would create 3,000 jobs at the refinery alone.
+ More palatable environmental characteristics. Pacific Future Energy said its refinery would capture carbon emissions and employ technologies to make the plant have near-zero net carbon emissions. Kitimat has touted its refinery as "engineered to be the cleanest upgrading and refining site in the world."

Eagle Spirit Energy's plan attempts to lessen the environmental threat of a dilbit spill by converting the bitumen into light crude oil before sending it to the coast for export.

Pacific Future Energy and Kitimat will still need to transport dilbit from Alberta to their respective refineries, but last year, B.C. Premier Christy Clark applauded that approach. Exporting dilbit-derived fuel would require smaller tankers filled with liquid that evaporates when spilled, a concept that "radically reduces the environmental risks associated with the shipping of oil off our coast to Asia," she said.

By Elizabeth Douglass, InsideClimate News
 Source- FirstPerspective

June 23, 2014

No Bitumen Road for Serengetti

The East African Court of Justice yesterday delivered a long awaited ruling on the case brought against the Tanzanian government by ANAW and others, seeking to restrain them permanently from building a highway across the Serengeti migration routes of the great herds of wildebeest and zebras.

The judges in their ruling said that the construction of a bitumen road across the UNESCO World Heritage Site national park is ‘unlawful’. Celebrations broke out in court and elsewhere across Eastern Africa and the rest of the world when the essence of the ruling became known, though seen at the bright light of day does the judgment have a downside.

The judged only ruled on the illegality of a bitumen or tarmac road but left the question open about the construction of a gravel road along the same route, something the Tanzanian government had said they were considering. ‘They can still try to build a murram road because that has not been specifically ruled out.
If they start, we shall sue them again and seek an injunction against that also. But primarily now we must lobby for the government to accept that the Southern route around the Serengeti will bring greater benefits for a larger number of people and the route is only slightly longer. Germany’s KFW, or so I heard, is doing a feasibility study now for the new route after the Tanzanian government has accepted the proposal and the World Bank and Germany have both offered to finance the highway as long as it routes around the southern tip of the park and not go across it.

Knowing our government however we must remain vigilant. Today was a victory of sorts but the battle for survival of the Serengeti continues. This is not over by a long shot’ wrote a regular Arusha based conservation source when relaying the court decision yesterday afternoon.

The news about the highway plans were broken here in early 2010 and then triggered a growing support movement which via social media and other avenues rallied support from the world’s leading conservationists, show biz personalities, business moguls and many governments and international organizations making their opposition known to these plans in both direct and indirect contact with Tanzania’s President Kikwete and members of his government.

 By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa Correspondent 
Source- eturbonews

June 11, 2014

Bitumen Refinery

A Vancouver-based company with international backing is planning to build a $10 billion bitumen refinery project near Prince Rupert.

Pacific Future Energy says the new refinery will be “the world’s greenest” and will be built in full partnership with First Nations.

The company has already identified three sites, all in the Prince Rupert area, as potential locations for the refinery, which will process oil from northern Alberta. A feasibility study, which is currently underway, will determine the exact location of the refinery.

“We believe this is an incredibly unique opportunity to build the greenest refinery in the world and there’s no better place than BC,” said Samer Salameh, Executive Chairman of Pacific Future Energy in a statement. “Our pre-feasibility study has begun, which will analyze the economic, social and environmental aspects of the refinery and help to determine the prospective site and expect to launch our feasibility and regulatory process in the next 9-12 months.”

Shipping refined products as opposed to heavy oil will be much safer, according to Salameh.
“By shipping refined products, we will eliminate the threat of a heavy oil spill.”

In case of a spill, these products float on top of water and evaporate, according to Pacific Future Energy. Bitumen sinks in water, and is much harder to clean up.

The refinery is designed to be built in stages, with each “module” processing 200,000 barrels of bitumen per day. The bitumen will be converted into gasoline, diesel, and kerosene.

Once the project is fully up and running, it will be capable of producing up to 1 million barrels a day.
Pacific Future Energy says the project is viable regardless of the current market price of oil, because of its ability to produce a wide range of fuels.

The federal government’s decision on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is expected sometime this week.

Source - Globalnews

June 9, 2014

Bitumen to Batteries

Chinese bitumen producer Luxiang has proposed a new plan for its transformation, moving away from its bitumen business and foraying into new energy after its lithium mine reported further delays, Guangzhou's Money Week magazine reports.

Trading for Luxiang's shares listed in Shenzhen have been suspended since April 1 due to the ongoing restructuring of its assets. The company expects trading to resume before July 8, according to the latest statement released on May 7.

Luxiang came under the spotlight again after electric carmaker BYD announced a plan to issue new shares to fund the expansion of lithium-ion battery production, because of the association of the two companies, the magazine said.

Lu Xiangyang, Luxiang's second-largest shareholder, is a cousin of BYD chairman Wang Chuanfu, and Luxiang holds the rights to a top quality spodumene mine in Sichuan province, the magazine said.
Luxiang shares were bolstered by such connections following the company's acquisition of the mine in 2009, but the company has been hit by delays because of the local government's stalled efforts to expropriate land around the mine for expansion.

A Luxiang official handling investor relations recently told the magazine that the company is not working with BYD on any project, since the two are operating on two ends of the industry and Luxiang currently does not produce batteries, components for batteries or lithium salts.

An analyst also told the magazine that Luxiang is unlikely to see a positive impact from government incentives for development of new energy vehicles, which was behind the recent share price surge of companies expected to benefit from the policy.

On the other hand, Luxiang has made a series of announcements regarding its restructuring plan, including the acquisition of Dongguan Tec-Rich Engineering and a 51% stake in a natural gas company in Yulin in Shaanxi province.

Tec-Rich is a producer of equipment and lithium batteries, which will allow Luxiang to tap into the sector downstream, while natural gas fits the company's goal to move into the new energy business, according to Luxiang chairman Ke Rongqing.

The more surprising announcement was the company's sale of its bitumen subsidiary, which was made on May 12.

The sale marked Luxiang's exit from its 16-year-long core business of bitumen, which might lead to a difficult situation of losing an income source, while its mine has yet to generate revenue, the magazine said.
Whether investors would buy into Luxiang's latest restructuring plan after trading for its shares resumes remains uncertain, the magazine said.

Source -Want China Times

May 15, 2014

Transporting Diluted Bitumen Via Sea May be risky

Transporting Bitumen Issue- The alternative view from Mr. David Black reproduced for your views.

In a letter (“Transport systen can handle diluted bitumen” May 14, 2104) Greg Stringham, on behalf of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, makes assertions about the behavior of diluted bitumen (dilbit) in salt water that are at best half-truths.

He states dilbit floats on salt water and that it is no more dangerous at sea than other types of oil. That is wrong. It is more dangerous at sea, and infinitely more so than refined fuels like diesel and gasoline.

What Stringham doesn’t mention is the same report from Environment Canada that he quotes from, goes on to say that dilbit sinks in seawater when there is sediment present. Another study by a top U.S. environmental chemist, Jeff Short, says the same thing. It was filed by the Gitxaala Nation to the National Energy Board in March 2013, so Stringham is well aware of it. That study says animal and plant matter like plankton, as well as sediment, cause the dilbit to sink.

Our entire coast has sediment and plankton in abundance. All our rivers are glacial and full of silt. Plankton is omnipresent, which is why the whales are here, and shallow seas like Hecate Strait throw up huge amounts of sediment from the bottom in storms.

Dilbit will sink in our waters if there is a spill and it will harden up like caulking material on beaches and the intertidal zone. The intertidal zone includes large mud flats in the mid-coast because the tidal range is more than 20 feet there. How would we ever get them clean again?

Stringham also says our Canadian oil industry is interested in the Kitimat refinery idea. That is news to me. I have talked to all the companies and there is no interest whatsoever. That is why I am spearheading the project.  It will keep dilbit out of tankers and provide an enormous value-add for B.C.

Canada’s oil industry needs a west coast pipeline. Coastal First Nations, the Yinka Dene First Nations, Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Terrace, Smithers, the provincial and federal NDP, the federal Liberals, the provincial and federal Green Party, many blue collar unions and the majority of folks in B.C. are against Northern Gateway’s idea of putting dilbit in tankers.

A refinery is economically viable. Why is it so hard for our oil industry to see that the way forward is to build a green refinery which will cut greenhouse gases by 50 per cent, create thousands of jobs, generate billions of new annual taxes, and gain acceptance for a safe pipeline?

David Black
Kitimat Clean, Black Press
Source -Sooke News

May 8, 2014

Transporting Bitumen is similar to Crude Oil

Continued safe marine and pipeline transport of hydrocarbons is in everybody’s interest so Canadians can realize value for resources and oil producers can continue to deliver jobs and economic benefits. No one wants a spill of any product at any time.

The performance track record over the past 50 years is good, but even still, work is ongoing to improve prevention and ensure producers, transportation companies and spill-responders have the best information available to manage products safely and make the best plans possible for response, containment and clean-up in the event of an incident.

Black's articles incorrectly suggested the Canadian oil industry is not interested in the proposed refinery project and that transporting diluted bitumen is more risky than transporting other types of oil because of its chemical properties.

Fact is, oil producers are seeking increased access to existing and new markets – in Canada, the United States and internationally – to satisfy market demand for increasing Canadian oil production. All options to achieve that goal are worthy of study.

And diluted bitumen – oil sands bitumen diluted with natural gas liquids that allow it to flow – is no more dangerous than other types of crude oil.

Chemically, there’s nothing about diluted bitumen the transportation system cannot be prepared to manage. Whether it moves by pipelines or tankers, diluted bitumen meets all the same specifications and behaves the same as other crude oils.

Oil floats on water if it has an API gravity above water’s 10 degree API gravity. Diluted bitumen has an API gravity of 20-22 degrees. Any type of oil spilled in water, eventually “weathers” and can be driven below the surface by waves or currents. Diluted bitumen behaves the same way.

There have been several scientific studies completed on diluted bitumen. Earlier this year, the federal government released a research study that demonstrated diluted bitumen floats on salt water – even after evaporation and exposure to light.

The study was commissioned by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada as part of the government’s plan to implement a world-class prevention, preparedness and response regime for marine transportation. Results of the study will be used to inform spill responders and help guide more research.

Our industry is focused on responsible development of Canada’s resources. We welcome transparency on our safety and environmental performance, based on sound science.
As producers, we transport oil with care and attention at all times. We expect all transportation providers to deliver safe services in a responsible manner.

Greg Stringham
Vice President, Markets and Oil Sands / Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

April 30, 2014

Montreal - A cheaper Option

Suncor might process Alberta bitumen in Montreal


CALGARY — A project that would enable Suncor Energy Inc.'s Montreal refinery to process thick, tarry oilsands bitumen from Alberta could get the green light later this year or early in 2015, CEO Steve Williams said Tuesday. 

The Montreal coker project is just one way Suncor is looking to cut crude costs at the refinery, which has long relied on pricey overseas imports. 

"I expect to have on my desk by the end of this year the proposal for the coker project, so we'll be in a much clearer position toward the end of this year, maybe beginning of next year, to decide whether we go ahead," Williams told analysts on a conference call to discuss Suncor's first-quarter results. 

Suncor is not disclosing the estimated price tag of the coker project, but Williams says it will cost much less to be built in Montreal than in the cost-inflation prone northern Alberta market.As well, much of the required equipment is already in Suncor's hands, as an earlier iteration of the project was shelved years ago. 

In the meantime, Suncor has been able to supply the 137,000 barrel-per-day facility with cheaper inland crude using rail and ship. 

During the first quarter, about 20,000 barrels per day of Western crude made its way to Montreal by rail, with the expectation of hitting an average north of 30,000 barrels per day for 2014. 

Suncor figures its rail strategy saved it $20 million during the quarter, since the Montreal refinery had access to cheaper inland crude, rather than having to rely on costlier imports.Some seaborne cargoes loaded with cost-effective U.S. crudes have also made their way to Montreal — an option Suncor uses on an "opportunistic" basis, Williams said. 

By this time next year, Suncor says its Montreal refinery should be able to get 100 per cent of its crude from within North America — once Enbridge Inc.'s Line 9 pipeline between southwestern Ontario and Montreal has been reversed and expanded. That project won regulatory approval in March. 

"We're delighted with the news around the Line 9 reversal and anticipate that line being reversed plus or minus a few months on the end of this year. We're just working through the specific schedules on it now."
The improved market access was one of the reasons behind Suncor's record and better-than expected first-quarter results, announced late Monday. 

April 28, 2014

Nepal's Infrastructure - Roads


Nepal’s mountain road
Major road expansion is planned for Nepal, but will face huge challenges due to the country’s geography - Mike Woof reports, with local information from World Highways' Nepal correspondent, Ram Krishna Wagle

The tiny, landlocked nation of Nepal lies sandwiched between two of the world’s largest countries, China and India and maintains good relations with both. Politically Nepal has strong links with China, while culturally its ties are close with India and these relationships work both ways. Despite being tiny in comparison, Nepal is an important trading partner for China and India and provides a vital transport connection across the continent for these much larger nations. Although Nepal’s recent political history has been tumultuous, with a series of changes in governments, the leaders of all the major parties have agreed upon the need for better transportation. And road transportation has been widely recognised as being crucial to the country’s development.

While Nepal is not strong economically, it is benefiting directly from its good relations with China and India in regard to infrastructure investment. And in spite of the changes of leadership in Nepal, these relations with China and India have been maintained. This is crucial as both of its giant neighbours have been providing economic assistance as well as technical expertise, input that is sorely needed. In addition Nepal also benefits from foreign aid provided by the EU, Japan, the Scandinavian nations, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

However Nepal’s geography poses a significant barrier for the country’s aim to improve transport. The Himalayan range lies in the north of the country, including eight of the world’s 10 highest mountains, and these present huge physical obstacles. In the southern lowland plains of the country, rivers descending from the mountains change course frequently, presenting another challenge. Meanwhile Nepal’s Hill Region includes altitudes ranging from 800-4,000m, itself providing difficulties for road builders. As a result of the technical issues resulting from the country’s geography as well as a shortage of construction machinery, building roads between cities, towns and villages in Nepal can be an expensive and almost painfully slow process.

Nepal’s roads
1: Weather conditions can require extreme caution on Nepal's roads 
2: The Mungling Bridge is an important link for the Prithvi Highway 
3: Widening work is underway on the Kathmandu Ringroad 
4: Some remote river crossings in Nepal are very weather dependent 
5: Road crossings from Nepal to neighbouring China are at high altitudes and conditions on some routes are basic 
Nepal’s road network is growing but there is an enormous need for more investment. A study in 2007 revealed that the country had 10,142km in all of surfaced roads and a further 7,140km of unsurfaced roads. Nepal has 75 District Headquarters and up to 15 have no direct connection by road, while 33% of the population live at least two hours walk from a road, presenting a major challenge to economic growth as well as for other factors such as education or health.

Because Nepal is landlocked, it relies on its transport links with China and India for trade and the nearest port is in Kolkata (Calcutta). But there is only one dependable road link between the Kathmandu Valley and India at present and the development of a new route will bring enormous economic benefits.

One issue that has affected a good deal of Nepal’s existing road infrastructure comes from the weather. Water flow rates can be enormous due to run-off from mountain glaciers, becoming worse still during the monsoon season due to intense bursts of heavy rainfall. Of the existing roads (surfaced and unsurfaced), up to 60% become unusable during the monsoon season and that includes most of the rural road connections.

Nepal’s geography means that bridges are crucial as the hilly and mountainous areas feature many deep gorges and rivers that have to be crossed. But these bridges suffer intense wear, both from the climate and from frequent vehicle overloading. Seasonal rainfall can subject bridges to enormous stresses, with many structures being damaged due to scour.

In a bid to improve the country’s bridges, Nepal’s Ministry for Physical Infrastructure and Transport inaugurated a programme of upgrades and maintenance work, with funding provided by the World Bank. Grant assistance of US$148 million was provided by the World Bank for work on 26 new structures and 98 bridges requiring major maintenance. The programme also extended to 230 bridges requiring minor maintenance work and a further 95 needing light maintenance.  “Connecting people with the road network can only develop a nation’s economy growth and prosperity,” commented Karla Gonzalez Carvajal, Sector Manager, Transport, South Asia Region, of the World Bank.

Of perhaps great priority still is the need to improve Nepal’s connections with its neighbours and the government has been pushing ahead with work on a series of major trade routes. The aim is to boost trade with neighbouring India and China and the programme will see four key trade routes being widened to six lanes, with three in either direction. These four routes are: Butwal-Belhiya; Rani-Ithari; Surybinayak-Dhulikhel; Birgunj-Pathalaiya highway sections. Meanwhile work is being carried out on a 15.4km stretch of the Suryabinayak- Dhulikhel road thanks to a loan from the Japanese Government. The work on the 28km stretch of the Birgunj-Pathlayia route is being carried out under the BOOT model. When the work is complete on these roads, journey times to India and China will be reduced, which will help to give the country’s economy a significant and much needed boost, and its agricultural industry will find new markets in these neighbouring nations.
58km KKHT link
The 58km KKHT link passes through challenging topography for road construction
Since Nepal embarked on its road construction programme, the Ministry of Physical Planning works and Transport Management said that the country has so far built 25,115km of roads, of which 11,565km is dirt road, 6,077km is gravel road and 7,474km is asphalt paved road. Statistics from the Ministry of Physical Planning, Works and Transport Management showed that 1,180km of new roads were constructed in Nepal in the 2011-2012 fiscal year alone. The statistics revealed that of the 1,180km of roads (short of the 1,280km target), 290km were surfaced with asphalt and 407km were gravel roads, while there were also 47 new bridges built in the period.

Arguably the most significant project underway in Nepal at present is for the 58km highway connecting Kathmandu with Kulekhani and Hetauda and which includes the construction of three new road tunnel sections. The Kathmandu - Kulekhani - Hetauda route is being carried out as a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project, the first tolled highway in Nepal being built under this model since the necessary legislation was drafted. The Kathmandu - Kulekhani - Hetauda Tunnel (KKHT) Highway is being designed with two lanes in either direction as well as a median strip. It will be operated under a 30-year concession signed with the Nepal Government, with an option to extend the deal by a further five years.

The three, four-lane tunnels, measure 3,425m, 735m and 392m in length and total 4.5km. The longest stretch of tunnel is being built from Kulekhani to Bhimfedi, with the 735m tunnel being constructed at Bhainse and the 392m tunnel being driven at Chobar. The project developer is Nepal Purbadhar Bikash (NPBCL) while the prime consultant for the project is the Full Bright Consultancy. NPBCL says it is the first public limited company in Nepal that has been established to build a national toll highway to Asian Highway Standards.

The highway is expected to cost some $375 million and will reduce the journey time between Hetauda in Makawanpur and Balkhu in Kathmandu from six to eight hours at present, to just one hour. Once the new route is open in December 2016, it is also expected to improve traffic safety as the existing routes feature a number of dangerous stretches. The highway will provide a much shorter route out of the Kathmandu Valley and its construction will provide better transport links between the west of the country to the south and east. This key transport route is expected to make a significant boost to economic development along the corridor in particular, and in Nepal as a whole in general. The existing 227km route from Hetauda-Narayanghat-Mugling-Kathmandu carries the heaviest traffic of any route in the country, providing an important trade route to India. One alternative route is the 133km Tribhuvan Highway, but this is not suited to high speed transport and the journey takes seven to eight hours. While there are other shorter routes these are in poor condition and are not suited to high speed transport.

The Nepalese Government is working on plans to build a series of highways that will improve north-south connectivity. The new Karnali road will link Khulalu, Simikot and Hilsa and will be 286km long. The first phase of the Kaligandaki highway will link Gaindakot, Mirmi, Balubang and Phalebas in Parbat and will be 283km long, while its second phase will link Kusma, Phalebas, Setibeni and Mirmi and will be 98km long. The Koshi Corridor highway will pass through Basantapur in Terathum to Kimanthanka and will measure 195km long. In all, the planned roads measure some 1,350km long but the various routes present major engineering challenges due to Nepal’s altitude and complex geological conditions.

Nepal has established a new framework to help boost the efficiency of its transportation plans and investments. Key road sections in the Kathmandu valley will be widened, Putalisadak-Kamalpokhari, Kamalpokhari-Ratopul, Lainchour-Sorhakhute, Maitighar-Banewshwore, Naghpokhari-Balaju bypass, Naxal-Narayanchour, Dillibazzar-Baluwatar-Maharajgunj.

Another key project for the country is the Kathmandu-Nijgadh-Pathlaiya Terai/Madesh Expressway project, also being built under the PPP model. The 76km expressway is expected to cost $853 million to construct and it will feature 84 bridges, of which 22 will have spans of 30-50m and seven will span 115m. The road will be tolled, with the concaession running until 2035. 
 But a major problem for Kathmandu in general is that the current road infrastructure in the city is not sufficient for the increasing numbers of vehicles. In a bid to tackle the problem, the authorities initiated a programme of road widening to reduce traffic jams, especially during peak hours. The Chinese Government has provided Nepal with expertise and funding for the ring road development around capital Kathmandu. The programme is for the widening of 27km of the ring road from its present four lanes to eight lanes in all. The road is being upgraded in three separate phases, with the first stage being the 9km Kalanki-Koteshowre section and the building of a new interchange.

The growth in vehicle numbers has been significant. In 1992 there were just 48,188 registered vehicles in the Kathmandu Valley and the total length of the road network in the area was 1,595km. There are now 567,670 registered in the Kathmandu Valley. And it is worth noting that this figure does not include other vehicles registered elsewhere in the country travelling through the valley, or vehicles entering the country from neighbouring China or India. According to Nepal’s Metropolitan Traffic Division, there are now around 800,000 vehicles in the valley overall.

Kathmandu city
Kathmandu is a busy city with increasingly high traffic volumes – image courtesy of Ram Krishna Wagle
Nepal road
Aviation is well developed in Nepal but the country's air safety record is not optimal
Agriculture accounts for 35% of Nepal’s GDP and this sector also employs around 75% of the country’s workforce. Transporting goods to market is crucial for economic development, particularly with regard to trade with China and India. Improved road links will cut transport times and costs and boost the economic benefits of trade with the neighbouring countries for Nepal’s producers.

Air travel is well-developed and Nepal has 47 airports, 11 of which have proper surfaced runways. However Nepal’s air safety record is not good due to many of the airports being located at high altitudes where weather conditions can be subject to rapid change. The country has airport facilities noted to be amongst the highest and most challenging for pilots, while aircraft condition is not always optimal and crashes are not infrequent.

Kamalpokhari Gyaneshwor road
Road Improvement under Kathmandu Valley Road Improvement Project, Kamalpokhari Gyaneshwor road section

The Nepalese Government has carried out a comprehensive survey of road transportation. This has been the first time in the country’s history that such a survey has been undertaken, with Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics gathering data to help government fiscal planning, public transportation and also help in education and research.

Nepal's Ministry of Physical Planning and Works, Nepal has carried out extensive traffic improvement studies for the Kathmandu valley, with assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Nepal's Department of Roads is using traffic data based on research work into congestion carried out by consultants.

Being small, landlocked and mountainous, poverty is a major issue in Nepal. But despite its small economy, Nepal’s progress on reducing poverty has been highly effective and continues. However unemployment levels remain high and many citizens currently leave the country to find employment elsewhere around the world. Australia, Canada, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and the UK are amongst the key countries where Nepalese move to find work. Nepalese soldiers are highly regarded for their bravery and in a curious historical anomaly, also fight for both the British and Indian armies in special Gurkha battalions. This is also of key economic importance, contributing nearly 23% of Nepal’s GDP.

Nepal has to import fuel for power generation and transportation from China and India as the country does not have any deposits of gas or coal of its own. Despite the fact that Nepal’s hilly and mountainous areas feature many fast flowing rivers, hydroelectricity accounts for only 40% of the country’s power generation at present. The country has around 20 hydroelectric plants (as well as some smaller facilities) at the moment, generating some 600MW. A further nine hydroelectric plants are being built, with 27 having been identified for future development. But some estimates suggest that the country has the potential to produce a total of 44,000MW from 66 sites in all. This is a key issue as Nepal has a shortage of electrical power at present, particularly in rural areas. Only 40% of Nepal’s population overall have access to electricity and the vast majority of those properties connected to the grid are in the major urban areas. The electricity supply is also unreliable at present with long power cuts common, particularly in wintertime when demand is highest, while costs to consumers are high and the system is also said to be highly inefficient.

The construction of two particular bridges is improving access to remote areas, as well as to an important power generation facility. The Arun River Bridge at Leguwaghat in Dhankuta, and the Sabha Khola Bridge in Sankhuwasabha District are of major significance. The Arun River Bridge provides a key link to access a network of 162km of roads, while the Sabha Khola Bridge connects with Sankhuwasabha District and is also important for the Arun III hydroelectric project.

UK consultant IMC Worldwide carried out the engineering design report and suggested that the most appropriate bridge layouts would be single 120m-span through-truss decks with 6m wide carriageways, and featuring a 1m raised footpath on one side. The bridges have semi-circular, steel trusses, with in-situ reinforced concrete deck slabs on reinforced concrete cantilever abutments and wing walls. The structures have a design life of 100 years, with the Sabha Khola Bridge built on rock and well foundations up to 16m deep for the Arun Bridge at Leguwa. The foundations have been protected against scour to maximise longevity.

Source- World Highways