The world is racing against time to meet the goal of zero Routine Flaring by 2030, a goal central to the call for climate change mitigation, SDG 13, and Ghana, a partner to this call is committed to this global ambition. However, Ghana’s action to this all-important global call has been met with numerous instances of backpedaling.
According to the World Bank, flaring of gas contributes to climate change and negatively impacts the environment through the emission of C02, black carbon and other pollutants. These emissions also contribute to the wastage of a valuable energy resource, which otherwise could be used for power generation to provide approximately 750 billion kWh of electricity beyond current annual electricity consumption by the whole of the African continent.
A 2020 statistics on global gas flaring by the World Bank is said to have increased to unprecedented levels in more than a decade, to 150 billion cubic meters (bcm) since 2009, an amount equivalent to the total annual gas consumption of sub-Saharan Africa. This indicates a 3 percent rise from 145 billion cubic meters in 2018.
In 2010, when Ghana began the production of oil, the government barred gas flaring whiles plans were set in motion to establish a gas plant in order to utilize the gas by-product obtained from oil production.
Within that same period, a total of $750 million was earmarked by the China Development Bank (CDB) – as part of a $3billion loan facility for the establishment of the Atuabo Gas plant in the Western Region and that delayed its original date of completion in 2012 and was commissioned for operations three years later on September 2015.
Although the zero flaring policy was instituted, it is far from literal, since there have been instances for the government’s approval of gas flaring over the years. The Government of Ghana, gave approval for the oil exploration at the Jubilee field to flare up 0.048 billion cubic meters of gas between June and September 2014.
Within three years, after the commencement of the operations of the Ghana Gas company in 2015, the company was flaring isopentane, a very essential derivative of gas because the company had no storage for it and there were no funds to commercialize the product. In 2018, the government through the Ghana National Gas company went into an agreement with ENI, an Italian Multinational Oil and Gas company to receive the isopentane to produce fertilizer and also for power production.
In 2020, the government again approved for Tullow Oil to flare gas as the need arose to its offshore fields. This was at a time when the company was heavily indebted and could not support production at fields that failed to meet initial output guidance for 2019.
This year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given approval for the Ghana Gas company to flare gas. The EPA justified its decision indicating that the Ghana Gas company has insufficient infrastructure to store up excess gas.
“We’re still having issues with the flare in the field that we’re producing, particularly Jubilee oil field. So much gas has been reinjected into the reservoir that currently they cannot continue that way, otherwise they will destroy the reservoir.”Kojo Efunam, Director at EPA
“So that is why we had to give them the concession to flare and since the gas infrastructure that we have can only take certain quantity”, he added.
These are only a few of instances of gas flaring in Ghana after the zero gas flaring policy was introduced. Of course, Ghana by this law has reduced gas flaring which otherwise could have been rampant in the light of the costs oil and gas exploration companies have to bear.
However, for the sake of contributing to SDG 13, and mitigating the debilitating impact of climate change on the country and the world at large, Ghana’s commitments to keeping low carbon emissions in this regard should be more than is currently seen.