Atuabo is no ‘game changer’

If the coming on-stream of Atuabo gas, which President Mahama called “the game-changer”, was meant to assure Ghanaians of improved power supply, it has done the opposite; and sector managers now say it was not meant to increase generation.

Speaking to anxious members of industry on Wednesday, Kofi Ellis of the VRA said Atuabo gas is only going to power VRA’s plants which could have used light crude oil if the ECG had not been indebted to the power generator to the tune of over GH₵1billion.

President Mahama however said on September 2, 2014 during a visit to Atuabo: “The important thing about this gas is that it allows us to have energy security in terms of putting in more thermal production, and it fits our programme of turning Ghana into the energy-hub of West Africa.”

The opening of valves at the Atuabo gas processing plant has coincided with a worsening power situation, as industries which were spared the power rationing exercise have been roped back in — while the situation has worsened for domestic consumers who were supposed to see an improvement.

This has strengthened the doubt of those who were sceptical when President Mahama called Atuabo gas the game-changer, and has left the generality of the populace wondering what is fundamentally wrong with the power sector.

“All the companies that we have signed Memorandum of Understandings with for installation of Independent Power Producer (IPP) thermal plants will feel secure to go ahead, because they know that by the time they finish their thermal projects gas will be available to power those projects,” the President said at Atuabo.

In truth, however, any IPP wanting to rely on the country’s own gas may have to wait until gas from other fields — aside from Jubilee — comes onboard, as the 60million standard cubic feet per day of Atuabo gas said to be going to the VRA so far appears not to be enough.

Indeed, it is for want of gas that the Sunon Asogli Power Company has held back the second phase of its thermal project involving some 360megawatts; the 200megawatt plant in operation, which is solely gas reliant, has seen enough thirstiness for them to be wary.

At any rate, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation has pegged the average Jubilee gas production for 2015 at a little over 77million standard cubic feet per day, while the VRA says some 350million cubic feet of gas per day is required currently.

The Nigerians have assured recently of a significant increase in gas supply, but that cannot be taken for granted, can it? Supply from Nigeria is said to hover around 50million standard cubic feet per day.

The VRA has thus warned that the power situation may worsen next year, as what it calls a generation shortfall of 300megawatts could go up to 500megawatts.

At a meeting with members of the Association of Ghana Industries on Wednesday, VRA’s Director for Planning and Business Development, Kofi Ellis, said the power generator owes every bank in the country because it does not get the money it needs to purchase crude oil for power generation.

The ECG, he said, owes the VRA over a billion Ghana cedi, and that if this bill is not settled, power generation will be very difficult in the coming year.

This means no significant amount of light crude oil is being bought for power generation in the absence of adequate gas, which is cheaper; a reason the introduction of Atuabo gas is not being felt through the ultimate measure — power supply.

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