Opinions Mon, 17 Jan 2011

Gas and oil Exploation in Ghana and Concerns


The oil and gas deposits currently known in Ghana extend from the Eastern to the Western borders of the country as shown in the map by the black sections along the coast line. The biggest troughs are located at the borders linked by a narrow stretch. Production and export of oil started on this narrow section at Saltpond over 25 years ago, but on very small scale and at irregular intervals.

However, revenue accruing from this operation have never been properly captured or mentioned in any Budget of Ghana over the years. Do you remember the missing crude oil tanker loaded with about US $ 2.6 million worth of oil?

The quality of oil in the Saltpond and the Jubilee fields is of higher grade, normally called ‘’Light sweet crude’’. Quality and grade is determined by the amount of sulphur contents in the oil. The lower the sulphur contents, the higher the grade and quality of it. Price per barrel therefore depends on the quality and grade of the crude oil.

On the Western border where the Jubilee Field is located, the oil and gas deposits are over 60 nautical miles from the shore or the coast line. However, in the shallow waters getting closer to the shore are gas deposits which were earlier discovered by GNPC. That accounted for the construction of the Power Generation Barge by GNPC to utilise the gas to generate electric power. The barge is currently at Efassu.

On the Eastern border starting from Tema, the oil and gas deposits stretch towards the shore lines and enter inland into the Volta Region. The Keta Sea Basin deposits stretch from offshore deep into inland covering almost the whole of Southern Volta Region referred to as the Volta Basin-Future Niger Delta of Ghana, if current policies regarding the oil revenue are not changed. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If gold royalties are good for the areas in which it is mined, then oil royalties are equally good for the areas in which the oil will be exploited on land in the future.

The British colonial masters, the Israelis, the Romanians and Russians have all conducted exploration activities on these deposits. My maternal grandfather while handing down oral history informed me that the Germans told them there was kerosene underground beneath them, an indication that the Germans also did carry out some exploration activities in the region. Coincidentally, a large portion of his land and others were taken over to become the Oil Exploration centre at Anloga during Dr Nkrumah’s regime. The Romanians were in charge drilling for oil when the 1966 coup took place.

The exploitation and development of the Eastern offshore and the Volta Basin oil fields are highly likely to adversely affect the economic activities of people in this catchment area, even leading to complete displacement of whole communities because of the closeness of the deposits to the shore.

The fishing industry, which is the main economic stay of the local residents along the coastline from Tema to Aflao, would be seriously affected, leading to the loss of economic livelihood. The Western offshore exploitation may also lead to coastal pollution in case of massive oil spillage. Already, small spillages have been occurring leading to controversial fines being imposed on Kosmos by EPA.

Equally, fishing in the Keta Lagoon and farming activities within the fragile eco-system of Anlo, Ketu and Tongu Districts particularly are likely to be severely adversely affected in the long run. Displacement of whole communities, as is already happening with the Western offshore, cannot be ruled out. These devastation effects would not be far different from the Niger Delta situation in Nigeria if special actions are not taken to mitigate their effects.

On the whole the exploitation and development of the Eastern offshore deposits which extend from the deep sea towards the shore lines and the Volta Basin would have disastrous effects on the environment, impacting negatively on the economic and social life of the people leading to total displacement and dislocation of several communities.

Already, opinions are divided as to whether the crude oil deposits in these Districts should be exploited, if it would lead to the complete extinction of their over 350 years sojourn on these lands from which local residents have been able to eke out a living. The majority opinion is, if the exploitation and development of oil would lead to destruction and degradation of the environment and displacement from their ancestral homes, then the oil should remain underground.

On the other hand, if the oil should remain underground in these Districts to preserve the fragile environment, these areas have other great potentials for the ‘’Blue Gold’’ and the ‘’White Gold’’ projects, which are also foreign exchange earners and could be developed instead.

For example, Ecuador has decided not to exploit and develop about 25% of that country’s oil deposits which are in the Amazon Forest to preserve the forest and the land surrounding it.

The Amazon and the Congo Forests are believed to be producing 50% of the world’s oxygen supply.

You would have noticed that the offshore deposits are just close to Togo and Cote D’ivoire borders and therefore likely to extend across into their waters. This might have possible source of conflict between Ghana and her neighbours in the future if care is not taken because of the maritime demarcations and the issue of sharing cross border resources.

The oil and gas deposits in Ghana are part of the whole of the Gulf of Guinea oil and gas deposits stretching from Senegal down to Angola which the USA has factored into their supply lines to meet 25% of that country’s domestic needs in the next decades to come. This is the basic truth behind the setting up of USA Military Bases in Africa, bringing West Africa into the geo-political considerations of the USA, not to mention other emerging powerful players like China. This is a new ball game we can only speculate about how it would be played. But if the brouhaha about the attempted sale of Kosmos’ share in the Jubilee Field is anything to go by, we can only say that the storm clouds are just gathering. Whether they’d bring us a good down pour to water our fields or floods to devastate our crops and houses is a matter of conjecture.


Solomon K. Kwawukume, Solomon.kwawukume@yahoo.com

Columnist: Kwawukume, Solomon