With Ghana struggling to overcome huge challenges in its electricity generation, officials are heaving a sigh of relief that its own gas produced offshore in the west of the country would come on stream in the next few weeks to fire thermal plants that have been starved of gas from Nigeria.
Officials say barring any last-minute hitch, the Atuabo Gas Processing Plant would receive its first natural gas next week to carry out its final testing and pave way for commercial production, according to media reports in Ghana on Tuesday.
The acute power shortage, caused by unreliable gas from the West African Gas Pipeline in Nigeria, low level of water in the three hydro-electric dams, scheduled maintenance at some thermal plants and lack of funds to buy crude oil to fire thermal plants, has forced load shedding to the anger of the public.
Electricity supply is a huge political issue in Ghana and the current stiff load-shedding has been making the government unpopular.
The reports say the final process to tie-in the Ghana National Gas Company’s 58-kilometre offshore pipeline to that of the 2-kilometre flexible riser of the Jubilee partners, led by Tullow, an oil producing company, began on Monday and is expected to take between five and seven days to complete.
“The tie-in process began sometime last week and several activities, including flushing water out of the pipelines, known as de-watering, have been completed successfully,” the Finder newspaper reported.
The newspaper said all testing had been completed, except the part of the gas processing plant that handled the processing of natural gas into various gas products.
“Once the tie-in is completed and Tullow and partners open the valves of the wellheads, natural gas will flow to the processing plant to carry out the last testing to ensure that the plant works according to design, specification and construction,” it said.
It quoted the Communications Manager of Ghana Gas, Mr Alfred Ogbamey, as saying that once the final testing proved successful, commercial processing of natural gas would begin and all things being equal, gas processing would commence by the end of November to end the limited flaring being carried out by the Jubilee partners.
He said it could take four months for the plant to operate at full capacity to process above 120 million standard cubic feet of gas per day.
This is because intake of raw gas from the Jubilee field would be done in a gradual process, starting from 30 million standard cubic feet of gas per day for the first month, 60 million standard cubic feet for the second month, 90 million standard cubic feet for the third month, and finally 120 million standard cubic feet for the fourth month.
The processing plant can process all the 150 million standard cubic feet of gas per day capacity of the Jubilee field partners, he said, adding that 30 million standard cubic feet of gas per day would generate about 120 megawatts of power.
Currently, VRA generates 75% of the power consumed in the country and 56% of that generation comes from non-hydro sources at a cost of US$3 million a day.
Ghana Gas is expected to save the nation over US$500 million a year from importing light crude to power thermal plants because gas costs barely half the price of light crude oil.
Mr Ogbamey noted that Ghana Gas would also produce 180,000 tonnes of LPG a year, which represented 75% of Ghana’s 240,000 tonnes of LPG consumed annually.
“Besides the US$500 million savings in cost of generation to the VRA and the country, there is an additional US$500 million savings in forex that would have otherwise gone out of the country for the importation of the reduced light crude. That money would be paid to a Ghanaian company, retaining the amount in the economy, leading to a billion-dollar savings for Ghana on lean gas alone,” Mr Ogbamey noted.
President John Mahama said in London on Monday that he was working hard to court more private investors to shore up local production of gas to solve the country’s power crisis.
He said this would end the country’s over reliance on the West African Gas Pipeline which had been inconsistent with supplying gas to the country.
“We had a lot of excitement when the gas pipeline was built hoping that the abundance of Nigerian gas will flow through the pipeline to help all the four countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Benin) that signed onto the pipeline but the volume has been very disappointing,” he said in answer to questions on Ghana’s economy during a Presidential Panel discussion with other heads of state to open The Global African Investment Summit underway in London.
The President said he was also hopeful the country’s current energy crisis should stabilize when works on the Atuabo gas processing plant are completed.