It’s been 13 years since Ghana discovered crude oil in commercial quantities but the country continues to experience gas flaring activities by crude oil producing firms.
Ghana lost a sum of US$169 million dollars in 2022 from a total of 25.3 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas that was flared in the upstream petroleum sector, according to the 2022 Public Interest Accountability Committee (PIAC) Report on Management and Use of Petroleum Revenue.
The volume of gas flared in 2022 increased by 19.3 per cent compared to a volume of 21.2 bcf recorded in 2021.
This constituted about 10 per cent of the total 253.56 bcf of both Associated Gas (AG) and Non-Associated Gas (NAG) produced from the three oil fields of Jubilee, Sankofa Gye-Nyame (SGN) and Tweneboa-Enyenra-Ntomme (TEN).
Between 2019 and 2021 Ghana lost about US$300 million through the flaring of 47 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas at a time when domestic consumption of processed gas, known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), was growing exponentially, leading to increased imports.
Gas flaring is the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction. It is regarded as a waste of a valuable natural resource that could either be used for productive purposes, such as generating power or conserved.
According to the 2022 report of PIAC a volume of 17.43 bcf representing 25 per cent of the total gas produced was injected for pressure support while a total volume of 3.76 bcf, representing 5 per cent of the total gas produced was used to power gas turbine generators.
A volume of 11.41 bcf, representing 17 per cent of the total gas produced was flared on the Kwame Nkrumah (KNK) Floating Production Storage Offloading Vessel (FPSO) while 35.88 bcf representing 52 per cent of gas produced was exported to GNGC.
Gas production on the TEN Field declined by 13.2 per cent from 64.13 bcf in 2021 to 55.68 bcf in 2022.
About 68 per cent of gas produced in the field totalling 38.03 bcf was used as gas injection for pressure support while a volume of 10.33 bcf, representing 19 per cent of the total gas produced was flared.
It will be recalled that President John Agyekum Kufuor in 2007 supervised the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities when the late Moses Boateng was the Chief Executive officer of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation GNPC and the late Kwadwo Baah Wiredu as the then Finance.
Days after the discovery and subsequent announcement at the OSU Castle, the then seat of government, and the house of Parliament, measures were put in place to design and develop best operational and production plan to help the country escape or avoid the problems and challenges associated with oil discovery and production with a cue from the Nigerian negative experiences.
Experts were brought in from Norway to train and equip locals in preparation for commercial production. In order to avoid flaring of associated gas during production, plans were put in place to establish a gas processing plant that would draw associated natural gas from the Floating Production Storage offload Vessels (FPSOs) on high seas and process it onshore into Liquefied Petroleum gas and distribute to power the various thermal power stations to produce electricity and fuel for industries and households. Measures were then put in place and subsequently, The Atuabo Gas Processing Plant was established to serve that purpose. This was at a time that Ghana was producing Between one hundred Thousand and one hundred and twenty Thousand Barrels of crude oil.
Today, more discoveries have been made and the country is producing about 200,000 barrels of crude oil a day with enormous associated gas. There is therefore a need to either expand the Atuabo gas plant to process the gas that is being flared or construct another gas plant to contain the excess and use it to serve the people of Ghana. We need to plan ahead. There is a need for strategic planning to avoid some of these experiences. Ghanaians are complaining of economic hardships and difficulties but this is a real natural resources that could be giving the country millions of dollars in terms of revenue which is flared to waste. Our technocrats should have seen this coming and prepare towards it by making recommendations to government but that has not happened. Nevertheless, something can be done about the situation
MARK AGYEMAN, PIAC TECHNICAL DIRECTOR’S REACTION
The Technical Director of the Public Interest and Accountability committee Mark Agyeman in a statement revealed that moves are underway by the Ghana National Gas Company to expand the Atuabo Gas Processing Plant as a way of building the infrastructure to contain more associated gas from the production fields offshore. He said currently Ghana doesn’t have adequate infrastructure to contain all the associated gas being produced hence the decision to flare with the permission of the Environmental Protection agency. He also accepted the fact that it would be prudent and beneficial to the people of Ghana should government decides to build another gas processing plant, bigger than the Atuabo gas plant to serve and meet the demand and future needs of the people as the country’s population continues to increase. That he said would also depend on funds available for such a project.