A long simmering turf war for control over associated gas from the jubilee fields could be playing out on the eve of the first processing of the commodity from the oil fields.
The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) has confirmed to The Chronicle, a media report that the Jubilee partners are 'demanding' a full audit of the gas processing plant before it is connected to the floating vessel, FPSO Kwame Nkrumah, offshore.
State newspaper Daily Graphic, quoting sources close to the project, reported that an initial plan to create a by-pass to carry gas onshore from the FPSO to pipelines leading to the Aboadze Thermal Plant was ignored by Ghana Gas Company, despite huge investments made by the partners in purchasing equipment for that purpose.
This has raised fears of further delays in the country's quest to deliver gas from the fields for cheaper power generation. The Communications Manager at the GNPC, who confirmed the report to The Chronicle, said the audit was only "a common sense approach" to testing the integrity of the facility for safety reasons.
But, Dr. George Sipa Yankey, explained that the by-pass idea could have extended the delivery period of the gas from the field for another nine months. He said the need for the by-pass was part of the initial plan, but noted that the partners could not readily get a heater component to regulate the heat for Aboadze to receive the gas, as initially anticipated.
Secondly, there was a need for a more detailed engineering works to be done before the by-pass could be constructed, due to the fact that the plant's systems are computerized, and the by-pass facility needed to be configured into them. Thirdly, the gas pipelines were not designed to take wet gas straight from the fields, noting that this could pose some serious challenges for the power plants.
He further explained that the idea of the by-pass was within the programme of the Ghana Gas Company, but due to constraints with getting the heater component, it was decided to construct it to coincide with a turbo expander project to help save the plant in the event of upset conditions, and also ensure continued gas flow even during plant maintenance.
He insisted that the company was in constant touch with the lead partners, Tullow, to get the by-pass done. Speaking on the subject of an audit, he said the impression being created by a section of the public, who remain skeptical about the project, to the effect that Tullow was demanding an audit was not true, as an agreement had long been reached for the audit to be done.
To this effect, he said, the quality assurance group of Sinopec, the company working on the project, will be coming to assess the project by next week.
Furthermore, an independent party would also be conducting an audit this month. "It is the taxpayers' money, and we want everything to be okay," he emphasised. He noted further that all components at the plant are all captured at a motor control center to detect problems and either solve them or prompt for personnel to be sent to fix it. "You see, people do not appreciate that the system is computerised."
Bernice Natue, Communications & Investor Relations Manager, Tullow Ghana Limited, in an email correspondence to The Chronicle on the issue, said, "To the best of our knowledge, the by-pass project is on hold until the completion of the main plant."
She explained that an independent audit is required as part of the regular assurance procedure associated with engineering projects of such nature, as it will assure the integrity of the Gas Processing Plant (GPP) and certify that it is safe and ready to receive hydrocarbon gas.
"Tullow is committed to adhering strictly to international safety standards and local regulations, and will continue to work with partners in the project to ensure that gas is exported from the Jubilee Fields to the GNGC facility at Atuabo safely for the mutual benefit of all concerned," she said.