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General News of Friday, 16 April 1999

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Local Investors asked to go into oil and gas production

Accra (Greater Accra) 15 April ?99

Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, Chief Executive of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) on Wednesday decried the apathetic attitude of Ghanaian companies and entrepreneurs to investing in the country's oil and gas industry.

It does not help to boost investor confidence in the industry, he said and charged charged local investors to support the oil and gas industry to bring up its potentials. When Ghanaians or Africans take an active interest in the operations of the oil and gas industry, foreigners will have a bigger interest in activities that will bring the dream of improving the socio-economic lives of the people, the GNPC boss said. This he said would satisfy the increasing demand on electricity, especially in the mining and other high energy sectors.

Mr Tsikata said this at a one-day orientation seminar for 15 journalists on the third "Oil and Gas Africa' 99 Conference scheduled for April 26-28. The Oil and Gas Africa '99 conference will be under the theme "Fuelling Africa's development: Opportunities and Challenges".

The conference organised by GNPC and FSG Medimedia Limited of the UK is aimed at bringing the leading players in the oil and gas industry in Africa and the international community to establish a long-term regional co- operation in the West African region. It will bring together 150 foreign delegates and about 280 local participants. Mr Tsikata said GNPC's aim is to create conditions that will speed up economic growth and development for the benefit of everyone in the country with a sub-regional focus. He also stressed the need for government and officials, especially ministers, to work at increasing the pace of the nation's drive in the area of oil and gas. Mr Tsikata who said he was not pleased with the attitudes of some officials responsible for the energy industry said "The whole nation must be interested in the activities of the corporation". Though exploration has been going on for a long time and no positive finding has been made yet, it is not out of place, he explained.

Other countries who have made it big in the industry today had to go through the same painful problem of waiting, he said. Mr Tsikata said the third deep-water well would be drilled this year in the Cape Three Points area to a depth of 2,600 feet. This is estimated at 25 million dollars and will bring out the volume of seismic information and operations that have been done in recent years.

The West African Gas Pipeline Project is on course, though political developments in Nigeria have not allowed the kind of investor interest expected. He praised the resilience and bullish attitude of Chevron in the project in the face of international pressure against Nigeria due to political unrest. Shell, Chevron, Nigerian Oil Company, GNPC and the oil companies of Togo and Benin, which form the consortium on the Project, are still meeting.

"Clearly interest is growing in other circles for the gas market". Mr Tsikata said gas that is flared by Nigeria through its oil exploration would be utilised through the pipeline project. "Two billion cubic feet of this gas could be used in providing 3,000 megawatts of electricity. But first the infrastructure should be put in place. "Ghana will have a huge benefit if the project comes to fruition as she will then become a hub from which electricity will be transmitted to the rest of the countries in the sub-region." Ms Esther Cobbah, Public Affairs Manager of GNPC, said the corporation believes that the more people understand what the industry is about, the better they would interpret it. "It is in this light that journalists who are in the forefront of setting public agenda need to be brought into the frame of things to help in this drive."

Ms Cobbah said there would be, among other things, a roundtable conference of African energy ministers, which would look at progress made since the last conference in Accra last year. Topics to be discussed include Africa's endowment in oil and gas, framework for investment in Africa's oil and gas, developing energy infrastructure for Africa and Africa's deep water potential.