General News of Thu, 21 Jun 2007118

Oil War: Minority debunks govt claims

Accra, June 21, GNA - The Minority in Parliament on Thursday debunked government claims that under the current regime, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) was producing oil while it produced salt under the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime.

They said the GNPC under the NDC produced some 62,000 barrels of oil during the testing of a horizontal well drilled in the South Tano field in 1992.

Briefing the parliamentary press corps in response to statements made by the President and his key Ministers on the oil find and energy situation in the country, Mr Moses Asaga, Ranking Member on Energy said under the PNDC and the NDC governments oil was refined at the Tema Oil Refinery, while the GNPC restarted production in the Saltpond in November 2000.

"Besides, in petroleum industry, sodium bicarbonate (salt) is a very important resource which the industry would have required, therefore it was not wrong for the GNPC to have invested in that area."

The Energy Minister on Tuesday addressed Parliament wielding a bag of salt and bottle of oil to tell the story of the oil find.

Mr Asaga noted that as a major entity in the country, it only made sense that GNPC invested in certain strategic national assets, notably in Cocoa, telecommunication, gold production, banking as well as the Osagyefo Barge and the West African Gas Pipeline Project.

He described the government's decision to go public on the oil find at this time as "premature", saying that it was a complete show of desperation over the continued exposure of its incompetent handling of the energy sector.

"In the process of this PR ploy, the President made A statement, re-echoed by his Minister of Energy, ... which are simply false ...", he added.

Mr. Asaga described the claim by the President that the GNPC was a general purpose company and that it was not focused on its core business of oil exploration as false, indicating that given the limited resources of the corporation there was a tremendous effort to attract foreign investment in undertaking exploration.

He argued that the GNPC enabled companies to have ready access to all data in respect of Ghana's sedimentary basins and made available its interpretations, including maps of prospects in the various areas. Mr. Asaga, a former Director at GNPC's Corporate Department, said GNPC undertook a number of promotional activities, including the annual Oil and Gas Africa International which not only became popular on the oil and gas calendar across Africa, but a strategic source of industry data and expertise.

The GNPC, he noted, successfully attracted companies into Ghana in the 1990's, the most intensive exploration period with investments worth about 200 million dollars.

"The deepwater areas were of particular interest to GNPC and 65 per cent of the area over which petroleum agreements had been signed were in deepwater by the end of the 1990's," Mr Asaga said, noting that Hunt Oil discovered a column of oil in one of the wells but considered that it was not commercial and it was after this that Kosmos Energy came to partner GNPC to yield this discovery.

He said it was wrong for the government to take whole credit for the discovery since these works by earlier companies and data they left behind resulted in this find.

"Indeed, it was the valuable data that GNPC made available to Kosmos Energy as well as GNPC's own assessment of the prospect that enabled Kosmos to succeed."

Mr Asaga said the GNPC personnel in the exploration and production division are the same people that have been in place before 2001. "At no point prior to 2001 did the exploration staff of GNPC get distracted from their main responsibilities," adding that, it was important to understand the rationale of GNPC investments." He said in the international oil industry, it was normal to have oil companies investing in fields ranging from telecommunications, mineral resource development through farming and ranching, citing the case of Shell.

Mr. Asaga said it was important for government to rally the nation together in the light of the worsening energy crisis, instead of polarising the nation as they seek to escape responsibility for their actions and inactions.

He said the NDC was ready to share ideas with the government in good faith in pursuit of the common national goal of solving the energy crisis, which is threatening the entire nation. 21 June 07

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Source: GNA

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