With production of gas from the Jubilee oilfield off Cape Three Points in the Western Region now rising gradually to the target level of 120,000 barrels per day (bpd) the attention of the Ghanaian government and state-owned its oil and gas company, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, GNPC, is now shifting to getting the utilization of the associated natural gas being produced, up and running.
Effectively, government and the GNPC is now raising against the clock to bring on-stream the requisite infrastructure to process natural gas re-injection into the reservoir started on April 27 this year, and this can only be done safely for a period of 18 months. After that time, if Ghana is not in a position to transport and process the natural gas, government would have to abandon its key policy stance of not flaring the gas which effectively would amount to not only wasting it, but polluting the environment as well.
To be sure there is plenty of natural gas available to the utilized. There is an estimated 120 million standard cubic feet (MMscfd) of natural gas contained in even just the first phase of the Jubilee Field development. Of this Ghana is so far looking to use just 20 MMscfd leaving up to 100 MMscfd initially for re-injection into the Field and then for potential future export.
There are also plenty of things to use the gas for. The foremost of these is for electrical power generation. Ghana wants to achieve a power generation target of producing about 5,000 megawatts of power by 2015, but this can only be possible if gas-driven power plants are added to the current mix of hydroelectric power and diesel oil driven thermal plants.
?Gas is an essential component that will enable the country to reach the 5,000 megawatts target? says Goosie Tanoh, businessman, industrialist political figure and lately, Chairman of the state-owned Volta Aluminium Company. ?We need to have clarity of the institutional system we want to put in place and clarity institutional delivery.?
Indeed, VALCO, whose Board Tanoh chairs is now meant to be part of an aluminium industry production chain that would be backwardly integrated to use Ghana's own bauxite resources to produce alumina rather than importing it, but this requires lots of cheap power and the country's natural gas has the potential to provide this for the first time.
Another potential use of Ghana's natural gas is in the agricultural sector. Explains Nana Boakye Asafu-Adjaye, GNPC's chief executive: ?Gas is a potential contributor to our agricultural development plans since fertilizers can be produced from natural gas. Additionally, lower cost energy can also contribute effectively to better storage and preservation of produce by the farmer.?
While the government and GNPC knows precisely want it to get out of its natural gas resources, there is still considerable uncertainty about how to get it.
Even though basic engineering work is on-going towards the construction of an interim gas processing plant in the vicinity of Bonyere and Domunli, no decision has yet been taken as to whether to transport the processed gas to feed power plants by way of offshore or onshore pipelines. This is because whereas the GNPC which has already started laying pipelines to transport the gas from the Jubilee Field onshore to the processing site, was envisaging on offshore pipeline for transporting the processed gas to its projected usage points which include the Aboadze Thermal Power Plant and Effasu Mangyea, the National Gas Development Task Force (NGDTF), which recently submitted its report to President John Evans Atta Mills, is recommending an onshore pipeline for that project.
Here, government's timeline, to avert gas flaring, is a crucial factor. Industry experts points out that it would be difficult to construct the 120 kilometre onshore gas pipeline required to transport processed gas from the Domunli gas processing site to Takoradi to fire the Aboadze Thermal Plant, within the 18 months until gas flaring becomes inevitable, but on offshore pipeline could be built within the period.
Also, the NGDTF is recommending that the ownership of the pipeline, to initially rest with the Bulk Oil Storage and Transport (BOST) Company and Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) to be expanded to include companies along the value chain, notably EVI/Vitoal who own the Sankofa Field, and the Jubilee partners.
Both structural and process engineers agree that to put the requisite infrastructure, both pipelines and processing plant in place by ahead of the technical deadline, the entire project needs to be pushed up to fast-track, priority status latest by the middle of this year.
GNPC is now beginning to live up to the challenge. The Corporation has already laid a 14 kilometre 12 inch gas pipeline from the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah, in the Jubilee oilfield itself towards the coast, but there is still another 36 kilometres of pipeline required for it to reach the Domunli area, on land.
In response to recent criticism from the World Bank's Country Director for Ghana, Ishock Divan that the government does not appear to have proper plan for laying the pipelines, which in turn is delaying the development of gas infrastructure, GNPC's Board Chairman, Ato Ahwoi has announced that the Corporation intends to establish a subsidiary limited liability company to handle the provision and running of the requisite infrastructure. In the last week of April, a six member delegation from Trinidad and Tobago, led by that country's Minister of Energy, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, visited Ghana to hold discussions with Ghana's Energy, Finance and Foreign Ministries and the GNPC to negotiate a joint venture between Trinidad and Tobago's National Gas Company and the GNPC. A Memorandum of Understanding has consequently been entered into by both companies.
The stakes for Ghana's gas industry are nearly as huge as those for the country's oil industry itself. The project is worth over US$1 billion and involves the development of offshore and onshore gas pipelines, processing facilities and liquefied petroleum gas and condensate storage tanks among other infrastructure. The challenge now is to bring the project in sync with Ghana's urgent need to dramatically improve energy supply to local industry at globally competitive prices.