THE future of Ghana’s Saltpond field is uncertain as there is no firm decision taken over its fate, amidst conflicting statements from regulatory authorities.
The Saltpond Oil Field was discovered in 1970 after the GNPC licensed Signal-Amoco Consortium to operate in Ghana's territorial waters.
The initial appraisal of the field showed that the well would produce 3,600 barrels per day (570m3/d) of oil.
The oil field is located 65 miles (105 km) west of Ghana's capital, Accra, in the Central region of Ghana. It is located about 13km off the coast of Saltpond in the northern-central area of the Takoradi Arch, in water depth of 80 feet.
Oil from Saltpond is heavy with a lot of Sulphur, quite different from what is being produced from the Jubilee field.
The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC), an independent body mandated to promote transparency and accountability in the management of petroleum revenues in its semi-annual report for 2017 indicated that “the Saltpond Field remains shut down, still awaiting decommissioning.”
Over $74,000 spent on its staff, maintenance costs
PIAC reported that in maintaining the skeletal staff of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) on the production platform, the Corporation for the first half of 2017 spent US$74,192.57 on staff emoluments and maintenance related costs.
Waste of resources
PIAC believed that the continued use of oil revenues to cater for an idle field did not reflect judicious use of the resources and recommended to the GNPC to speed up efforts to completely decommission the field.
Initial processes for decommissioning took off in 2017
Checks made by this paper from the 2017 annual report on Petroleum Funds submitted to Parliament by the Finance Minister revealed that as part of the pre-decommissioning process, GNPC submitted an evaluation report to the Central Tender Review Committee (CTRC) to seek approval for the engagement of a project management consultant.”
The report which failed to provide the cost of maintaining staff at the field further stated that following the termination of the Saltpond Field Petroleum Agreement in August, 18 2016, there was no production from the Field in 2017.
“Saltpond Oil Field will be decommissioned in 2018”
Acting Director of Operations and Resources Management at the Petroleum Commission, Mr Francis Ackah was on December 14, 2017 quoted by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) as saying “ the Saltpond Oil Field would be decommissioned next year.”
No intention of shutting down Saltpond Field- Petroleum Commission
PIAC at a recent session with journalists to review the semi-annual report for 2017, revised its notes on the proposed de-commissioning based on a news report which quoted the Director of Special Services at the Petroleum Commission (PC) Mr Kweku Boateng as saying some companies had expressed interest in prospecting for oil from the Saltpond field.
“The previous government took a decision that the field should be decommissioned and GNPC was tasked to lead the process of decommissioning. However, recently we have received some proposals from certain companies that claim that there are interesting prospects over there,” Mr Boateng was quoted as saying.
PIAC agrees with decision not to shut down
Policy analyst and member of PIAC, Dr Steve Manteaw and Vice Chair, Mr Kwame Jantuah both argued that current price levels of crude oil on the world market justified any such decision to put the oil field back into production cycle.
“This industry is dynamic and we must be mindful at all times of the oil price as the determining factor in the industry,” Mr Jantua said.
However Prof John Gatsi, Head, Department of Finance, School of Business, the University of Cape Coast was worried over the uncertainty that had clouded the status of the oil field.
He argued that price levels would always change so there was no need to keep the field idle while staff and maintenance costs are incurred.