A crucial facility Ghana should have installed ahead of her upstream oil and gas development and production phase was a shorebase facility to handle thousands of tonnes of logistics required to enhance industry efficiency.
As it turned out, the country was so absorbed in celebrating the commercial find and declaration of the oil that we failed to install the shorebase, which should be different from regular commercial port activities.
The result is that the mix of commercial sea going vessels with platforms serving the oil and gas industry is virtually choking the Twin City.
A dedicated shorebase facility for upstream platforms will ensure good turnaround time and improve efficiency as it is undisputed that delays in the oil and gas industry, like any other, cost millions of dollars and impact production negatively.
It is for this reason and many more anticipated benefits that make current indications of a partnership between Lonrho Plc. and the Government of Ghana and other local players to establish a shorebase facility at Atuabo rather welcome news.
Players in Ghana’s oil industry since commercial discoveries from 2007, source services or supplies from the Takoradi Port, a distance of about 60km. The Port itself lacks capacity in many ways as it is not fashioned for some of the oil and gas and allied tasks.
From operational perspectives, there are a number of requirements, which make a shorebase efficient. It must have an adequate water depth, good quays, ready access to bulk storage materials, equipment and pipe yards, ample land for service companies and proximity to the oilfields. Others are land for offices, tug support, power, transportation and accommodation.
All these, sadly, are lacking at the Takoradi Port.
With the increased presence of semi-submersible rigs, drill ships and Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels in West Africa, owners of these platforms are increasingly demanding a repair and upgrading facility to be strategically located in the Gulf of Guinea.
To them, the facility would enable them to carry out repair and upgrade work on their equipment and to add value to services by cutting down long turnaround times and save cost.
Challenges in STMA
The lack of the shore base facility to support the industry since its inception has resulted in serious congestion in the Twin-City of Sekondi Takoradi.
Almost every available space in the metropolis is occupied – from private properties, and the invasion of the strategic military installations has forced their partial conversion into service bases.
The streets in the metropolis are regularly inundated with haulage trucks hauling long drilling pipes and heavy equipment from these parking spaces to the Port of Takoradi or to the Home Port of the Western Naval Command.
As the industry expands to access reserves in deeper waters, there is the need to provide the infrastructure for contractors to build, fabricate, assemble and maintain subsea elements such as pipelines and manifolds and accommodate the correspondent increase in pipe laying and supply vessels.
Space and time on the oil platforms are in limited supply and thousands of tonnes of supplies must be transported to the rigs and platforms just as large waste and debris generated from the operations must be brought back to shore.
Benefits of a shorebase facility
The country stands a huge chance to benefit from the shore base facility, in terms of jobs creation, transfer of skills and Ghana being designated a regional hub.
With a dedicated shore base facility, the movement of trucks in the metropolis would reduce and the current congestion in the twin-city of Sekondi/Takoradi will ease significantly.
Lonrho Atuabo Free Port facility to the rescue
More than six years after oil discovery and subsequent production, it is gratifying that Lonrho is partnering Ghana to put up the shorebase.
With a water depth of more than 16 meters, the Atuabo Free Port aims to support services in the offshore oil and gas sector development in the country and the wider West African Market.
The master plan incorporates areas for logistics and subsea fabrication yards, rig and vessel repairs and heavy engineering services. Others include business support services with an airstrip for both fixed and rotary winged aircraft services and an area for hotels and catering services.
The project, which is estimated at about $600 million and likely to start in the Second Quarter of 2014, would span over 18 months.
The Daily Graphic understands ownership of the facility would be 55 per cent for Lonrho, 45 per cent for Government and Ghanaian institutions.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, Mr Steve Gray said the project would generate jobs from construction to operational stages. It is expected that over 500 people would be required in the initial stages and when the facility becomes operational, thousands of job opportunities would be opened.
Hub for West Africa
Establishing the base, Mr Gray insisted, would provide industry players with West Africa-wide access for products and services. He explained that offshore operations require serious attention and constant services with the closest such facility available only in South Africa, a 21-day journey by sea.
“With the facility in Ghana, it would be easy for these specialized service providers to move into the country to provide the crucial service,” he said, adding that the Atuabo facility provides an attractive location for Ghanaian companies to become involved in the wider West African oil industry beyond the existing market in Ghana.
A visit to the Atuabo community yielded clear indications of broad consultations and communication between Lonrho and the community with the youth highly anxious of the expectant jobs. Apart from information centres set up in the English and Nzema languages, the people are aware the company had also generated data on skill levels in the communities.
The communities expect to offer land as equity in the project and proceeds used to set up a skills training centre and also invest in other development projects to enhance the lives of the people.