Amid energy crisis, Ghana eagerly awaits gas pipeline
By Mawusi Afele Oct 26, 2006, 8:55 GMT
Accra - With their country's energy crisis likely to grind on for months, many Ghanaians are pinning their hopes on the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) project, which would bring cheap natural gas from Nigeria to Benin, Togo and Ghana.
When the 500-million-dollar project is completed - tentatively in March - it would relieve some of the power blackouts and expensive use of generators currently plaguing Ghana.
Although the level of water in the Volta Dam, where some 60 per cent of Ghana's electricity is produced, has inched above the minimum level of 240 feet to about 245 feet, the situation is not expected to improve enough to give the country a regular and uninterrupted power supply.
Natural gas generation is direly needed, especially because the catchment areas in Burkina Faso of the dam's three main tributaries - the White Volta, Black Volta and Red Volta - are fast entering the annual dry season, and significant rains are not expected before June.
'We are monitoring the situation very closely,' said Abla Fiadjoe, acting director of corporate affairs for the state-owned power producer, the Volta River Authority (VRA).
The dam, built on the Volta River in 1965 as the main source of power for Ghana, generates about 912 megawatts of power at Akosombo and about 160 megawatts at Kpong, a smaller dam built 25 kilometres downstream.
The West African Gas Pipeline was conceived in the early 1980s by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as one of its key regional economic policies, and the plan was subsequently adopted after feasibility studies supported its viability.
Ghana would especially gain by its Takoradi thermal power plant using natural gas to generate power to supplement what is produced from the Volta dam.
The gas supply agreement for the Takoradi thermal power plant, signed in 2002, is expected to significantly reduce boiler-fuel costs at Takoradi by substituting gas for oil. In 2003, the four countries signed an agreement to implement the project.
Partners in the pipeline project are US oil giant ChevronTexaco with 37.7 per cent, Nigerian National Petroleum Company with 25 per cent, Shell with 18 per cent, Volta River Authority with 16.3 per cent and SoBeGaz of Benin and and SoToGaz of Togo with 2 per cent each.
The project would initially transport 120 million cubic feet per day to Ghana, Togo and Benin, and eventually deliver 400 million cubic feet per day.
Ghanaian authorities believe that the country could save between 15,000 and 20,000 barrels per day of crude oil when the project comes on stream. Another power plant to be built at Tema, some 25 kilometres from Accra, would receive 40 million cubic feet per day.
Civil society groups claim that the project risks prolonging the Niger conflict. They say that the people had not been consulted properly, compensation paid to them is low, and the project violates the sovereignty of the four states.
The cost of the 1,033-kilometre pipeline has risen by 10 per cent because of the rising cost of energy equipment, according to Jack Derickson, managing director of West African Gas Pipeline Company.
The remaining major work is construction of the compressors at the Lagos, Nigeria end of the project and issues on research and monitoring, Derickson said.
Also pending are the civil works at Alagbado and Lagos Beach compressor station, completion of mainline welding and burial and commencement of tie-ins.
'We also intend to receive major equipment including compressor modules at site and piping at Alagbado, and (Lagos Beach compressor station) are working at getting manufacturers of items for installing the compressors at the Nigerian end of the project, as well as complete trenching works in Takoradi and Tema, both in Ghana,' said Derickson.
Research and monitoring stations are to be built in Tema and Takoradi, and hydro-testing on the pipeline remains.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur