The demand for fuel in Bangladesh has dropped from 18,000 tonnes per day to 6,000 tonnes due to the nationwide shutdown since March 26, according to the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC).
The 67 percent decline in demand is not surprising as demand for oil around the world has dropped by 20 percent. Currently much of aviation and inland transport across the globe is closed, with motorists staying off the roads due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result, the price of Brent Crude oil has hit an 18-year low in the world market. The price was already trending low before the coronavirus outbreak due to a competition in production between the Saudi-led alliance and Russia.
The price of oil per barrel is now $25 – down by more than 50 percent in just one month.
In February, the BPC imported crude oil at $56 per barrel and diesel oil at $45 per barrel.
In the international market Canadian crude oil was selling at $9.3 per barrel on Thursday.
Economists predict that demand for fuel will fall sharply by another 30 percent in the coming months.
"BPC, the state-owned oil-importing corporation, imported 10 additional ships in the last month to tackle the diesel crisis which was observed in February," said Syed Mehdi Hasan, director (operations and planning) of the BPC on Wednesday.
Normally, the corporation imports 14 ships each month but in March it imported a total of 24 ships, each with a carrying capacity of 30,000 tonnes of fuel.
Of those, six ships are still waiting in the deep sea to be off-loaded.
But the BPC cannot off-load the fuel as the country's demand has decreased to one-third of the total, and all the depots in the country are full.
In April, additional 11 ships are scheduled to arrive with a total of 3.35 lakh tonnes oil including 3.15 lakh tonnes diesel and 20,000 tonnes of Jet fuel.
Bangladesh can store 13 lakh (1.3 million) tonnes of fuel in different depots across the country. This is equivalent to 45-50 days' demand.
Many countries are taking this low price of oil as an opportunity to store it.
But BPC does not enjoy the freedom to buy oil instantly and does not have sizeable oil storage facilities where it can keep the extra oil.
In 2018, BPC imported a total of 52.19 lakh tonnes of oil, which included 10.79 lakh tonnes of crude and 41.39 lakh tonnes of refined fuel.