Over the 64 years since Independence, Ghana has made great strides towards economic independence – a goal whose relevance is all too clear since Covid-19 disrupted everybody’s lives, affecting every activity – and the energy industry – with a magnitude that exceeded all recent crises.
The pandemic led us – individuals as much as companies – to a deep reckoning of our priorities and our goals. At Eni, we decided to accelerate our transformation as an energy company, and we committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 – and one of the main levers to get there is leveraging natural gas.
Gas already represents half of Eni’s global production mix, and it will rise over the coming years to reach 55% in 2025 and as much as 90% in 2050. Although gas is still a fossil fuel this natural resource is uniquely placed to facilitate the transition from the current intensive use of carbon to a low-carbon future. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently predicted that gas will be the fastest-growing source of energy over the next two decades, second only to solar power.
Most importantly, natural gas is a cleaner energy source: it has the lowest carbon footprint of all fossil fuels, generating about half the CO2 emissions of coal per kWh of electricity generated.
This means that gas can play a crucial role in one of the world’s greatest challenges: tackling climate change, while also ensuring access to energy for a growing population, with the aim of fostering development and reducing social and economic imbalances.
One of the pillars of Eni’s business model is the pursuit of this transition by promoting the development of local markets. This is the strategic framework behind the Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) project, the only deep water non-associated gas project dedicated to domestic consumption in Sub-Saharan Africa, operated by Eni on behalf of its partners Vitol and GNPC. OCTP is an integrated project: it has been designed in such a way to exploit both oil and gas found in the subsurface and most importantly to be at zero flaring in order to reduce emissions from production at a minimum.
The Sankofa field gas, which forms part of the OCTP project, benefits Ghana in multiple ways: it allows for environmental benefits, triggers local development, reduces the Country’s energy cost and provides stability in price and supply. Since 2018, Sankofa gas has been powering Ghana’s economy through stable supply of electricity. Furthermore, thanks to Eni’s role in completing the Takoradi-Tema Interconnection Project in 2019, gas has flowed smoothly from the Western Region for use by off-takers in the Tema-Accra power and industrial enclave.
Sankofa gas has allowed Ghana to eliminate the Country’s previous dependence on imported liquid fuels, which are not only more expensive but also more polluting. From 2017 to date the use of liquid fuel has been practically eliminated: in 2020, 98% of Ghana’s thermal power was generated by gas of which more than 50% comes from OCTP.
COVID 19 has taught all of us about the importance of developing domestic resources for sustained economic development and energy independence in the wake of a pandemic. Sankofa alone can deliver significantly higher gas rates to meet Ghana’s needs along with its economic growth.
In addition to currently producing fields, Ghana has significant additional gas resources that could be developed: with the right policy framework and looking to the current situation in terms of power sector in its neighboring countries, Ghana may consider increasing its ability to export electricity. The future exploration activity that Eni is looking to perform in the country supports this course: a viable research of new fields that can be brought online in a timely and sustainable way, just as was done for Sankofa.
An optimized utilization of fossil resources like oil and gas, while looking into alternative sources of energy like solar power, can play a pivotal role in the economic independence of Ghana, paving the way for other sustainable energy sources that can integrate and, in time, substitute traditional fossil fuels visioning toward a full circular economy.
Under Eni’s dual flag approach, there is a huge opportunity for Ghana and Eni to combine efforts to efficiently exploit domestic gas resources for accelerated growth of the economy, to the benefit of all Ghanaians.
>>>The writer is the Managing Director, Eni Ghana