Interview: Edwin Alfred Nii Obodai Provencal

In which areas can Ghana invest to diversify its petroleum transport and storage infrastructure?

EDWIN ALFRED NII OBODAI PROVENCAL: With natural gas being a transition fuel, investment in its storage and transport is expected to be key for Ghana’s energy sector. The potential in this field is immense, aligning with the country’s efforts to transition towards the use of cleaner energy sources. This shift not only bolsters environmental responsibility, but also carries tangible economic and public health benefits. The existing infrastructure to support a robust gas transport and storage sector is inadequate, so there is significant potential for investment.

Increased financing is likely to accelerate Ghana’s energy transition and increase the natural gas penetration rate, especially in rural areas. In addition, there are opportunities to expand liquefied petroleum gas tank farms to depots across the country. The regime to support such an expansion would require credible engineering, procurement, construction and financing arrangements with investors, and Ghana could explore public-private partnerships to facilitate this. Expanding social infrastructure like roads, hospitals and schools to areas where petroleum storage facilities exist could also help incentivise private investment.

Which capital infrastructure projects in the natural gas segment should be prioritised?

PROVENCAL: Priorities should include extending pipelines to connect major economic centres like Accra and Kumasi, easing pressure on roads. The strategic expansion of such infrastructure hinges on prudent capital allocation, although it is important to note that the feasibility of this investment is tied to utilisation rates.

In cases where existing utilisation hovers around 40%, a pragmatic approach is necessary, with the government’s involvement pivotal in supporting such infrastructure developments. The significance of such an investment lies not just in today’s economic context, but also in a future where it may yield substantial returns. The driving force behind private sector participation is the economic viability of such investment.

How are stakeholders promoting quality control to ensure compliance with global fossil fuel standards?

PROVENCAL: With a new sulphur content standard of 50 parts per million (ppm), down from 3000 ppm, Ghana was the first country in West Africa to switch to low sulphur diesel, giving it the highest quality of fuel in West Africa. Such initiatives are likely to impact regional efforts to harmonise fuel quality standards, as Ghana is a major exporter of fossil fuels in West Africa.

The National Petroleum Authority (NPA), as the regulator, assesses the quality of petroleum products in Ghana to ensure that they meet international standards. The NPA also has a strong fuel monitoring system that continuously analyses and tests products to mitigate the effects of poor quality fuels. To harmonise standards across the region, governments should adopt and implement standards to improve the quality of the fuel supply chain and lessen the environmental impact.

In what ways can technology solutions boost operational efficiency in the transport of bulk oil?

PROVENCAL: Technology solutions in Ghana’s bulk oil transport have led to a reduction in the turnaround time from four hours to one and a half hours. Notably, there is a planned $24m automation project to further improve bulk oil transport. This initiative is expected to streamline the turnaround time to 45 minutes, further enhancing operational efficiency.

Enterprise resource planning systems are being implemented to manage the day-to-day business activities of bulk oil transport. The impact of these technology-driven improvements is certain to be evident in profitability and turnaround, translating to a more cost-effective and robust bulk oil transport network. This transformation is set to further bolster the country’s standing in the international energy industry.