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Ghana Lacks Capacity to Handle Risks Tied to Oil Production, Report Shows

  • SOURCE: | qwesa2big
  • Ghana’s main environmental agency may finish regulations for the country’s nascent energy industry by 2012, as a government report showed the body is unprepared to manage the risks associated with oil production.

    The Environmental Protection Agency “lacks necessary equipment and adequate capacity” to monitor and handle potential problems in the emerging oil and natural gas industries, showed the report, written by officials from the West African nation’s Environment Ministry and other government agencies.

    The report was obtained by Bloomberg and verified on Oct. 6 by Hamidu Adakurugu, a deputy director at the ministry who served on the committee that probed a series of spills of low- toxicity drilling mud and fluid by Dallas-based Kosmos Energy LLC over the past year.

    Ghana, which is set to become Africa’s newest oil exporter at the end of this year, may pump as much as 240,000 barrels of oil from it offshore Jubilee field by 2014-15, the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corp. said yesterday. U.K.-based Tullow Oil Plc, the field’s operator, holds a 34.7 percent stake while Kosmos has 23.5 percent. Other partners include the GNPC and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

    The regulatory shortcomings will take time to overcome, said Kojo Agbenor-Efunam, a program officer with the Accra-based agency, known as the EPA, who is working on the new regulations. He said that he had not seen the ministry’s report.

    Needs Support

    “The staff strength of the agency is not like you find in the U.S.,” he said in an interview yesterday, saying he was the only full-time employee of the EPA working on the oil industry. “Jubilee has brought Ghana into the limelight for everybody. We will need all kinds of support to do what we need to do.”

    The ministry’s undated report recommended Kosmos be fined 40 million cedis ($28 million) for spilling 706 barrels of oil- based mud containing heavy metals and drilling fluid into the Gulf of Guinea on three occasions over the past year. Kosmos has contested the fine, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported Sept. 21, citing people it didn’t identify. Jim McCarthy, a New York- based spokesman for Kosmos, declined to comment in an e-mail Oct. 5.

    The GNPC, which is also the energy industry’s regulator, “failed in exercising its regulatory role” during the spillage, including on Dec. 26, 2009, when the representative who was supposed to be on board a drilling rig was on vacation, the report said. The committee recommended that the corporation be stripped of its role in supervising other companies in the industry.

    Not Aware

    The Ghana Maritime Authority, an agency responsible for protecting the country’s coastal waters from pollution, was not aware the rig was operating in Ghana’s waters, the committee said in the report.

    GNPC’s Managing Director Nana Boakye Asafu-Adjaye and Thomas Manu, director of exploration and production, did not respond to phone and text messages made Oct. 6 and today. The maritime authority did not respond to an e-mail or answer calls placed to its Accra office yesterday.

    Ghanaian fishermen said a larger spill could threaten their security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Ghanaians are involved in fishing, including both fisherman and the people who rely on them for support.

    “It worries us,” said John Bessaw, a fisherman in the village of Dixcove, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) north of the Jubilee field, in an interview last month aboard his motorized canoe. “We didn’t go to school, this is the work we know.”

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