The Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors (CBOD) has backed plans to make Ghana a hub of the petroleum sector in West Africa but said the government's commitment to the vision will be tested by how it treats the national refiner, the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR).
In a comment that amounts to a direct request for government’s support for the refiner, the Chief Executive Officer of the CBOD, Mr Senyo Hosi, said the government could use TOR as a trigger point for the hub concept, which the Ministry of Energy has been working to actualise.
Addressing Ghanaians and other stakeholders of the petroleum sector at Houston, Texas in the United States of America, Mr Hosi said the government could do this by supporting TOR with the necessary resources and structures for it to become “the trigger of the refinery revolution that we ought to have.”
“TOR must be the anchor of that entire project, which is the petroleum hub,” he said at the just-ended Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in the USA.
He was speaking at a special session organised by the Ministry of Energy for stakeholders to deliberate on issues affecting the energy sector.
Mr Hosi, however, dismissed calls for the establishment of a new refinery, stating that the concern at the moment should be “how do we turn TOR around?”
“How do we get them the right and necessary capital, the governance and management system to make it successful,” he said.
He also made a strong case for the government to privatise the refinery in the long run as part of measures to help inject efficiency into its operations.
Since 2017, the government has been working to make Ghana a hub for businesses in the petroleum sector in West Africa.
It is reported that a task force was inaugurated last year to help implement the 12-year agenda, meant to kick-off in 2018.
The Ministry of Energy, which is overseeing the agenda, estimates that it will cost about US$50 billion to actualise the vision; which involves the construction of four greenfield refineries, storage facilities and other adjoining infrastructure in the Western Region.
Impact on employment
Mr Hosi, who is the chief lobbyist for the bulk oil distributors, said the concept was “welcoming” as it would help tackle the unemployment menace and retain capital in the country.
In announcing the chamber’s support for the petroleum hub concept, he said Ghana’s current challenges with unemployment required proactive and innovative measures to address.
Thus, he said making Ghana a hub for the petroleum sector in West Africa was one such proactive measures that the country could use to address the canker.
“So, we cannot continue pushing out oil and taking in refined products and have our engineers engineering nothing,” Mr Hosi said from the panel, which included the Managing Director of TOR, Mr Isaac Osei and his counterpart from the GOIL Group, Mr Patrick Akorli.
“The unemployment thing is a social problem that government will have to deal with and so coming out with this idea is fantastic to help create a proper balance and share employment and capital and their returns for the world,” he said.
Demand for refined products
The CBOD CEO said projections showed that demand for refined petroleum products were set to soar in Africa, bringing to the fore the business opportunities available in the activity of refining.
With only South Africa being the only country with functional refineries, Mr Hosi said Ghana could easily profit from the expected strong demand for refined petroleum products by leveraging its peaceful and stable sociopolitical environment to attract investors in the sector to set up.
He also advised that the concept must not be thought of from the perspective of physical infrastructure but from a perspective that seeks to leverage existing structures.
He mentioned the storage facilities of the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST) as one set of infrastructure that could be utilised to achieve the vision.