The $620 million, 678 km (420 mile) pipeline has been built to transport natural gas from Nigeria’s Niger Delta to Benin, Togo and Ghana to help ease chronic power shortages.
Ghana’s Volta River Authority (VRA) power utility said in a statement late on Friday that the pipeline had been successfully filled and shut in, and the company was talking to suppliers to ensure continued flow once commissioning was completed.
VRA, which produces most of Ghana’s electricity from the huge Volta dam, said on its website www.vra.com that it is increasing capacity at its Takoradi thermal plant to 660 MW from 550 MW, and switching from liquid fuel to gas to cut costs.
Frequent power cuts, especially in 2006, forced rolling blackouts across Ghana and reduced mining output from Africa’s second biggest gold producer.
‘This will ensure a reduction in the cost of production, as natural gas is cheaper than light crude oil that has been the source of fuel for the Takoradi plant since its construction 10 years ago,’ VRA spokesman Kofi Asante Okai said in Friday’s statement.
Research dating from 2005 indicated switching to gas could cut fuel costs by around one-third, VRA’s acting general manager for thermal generation, Richard Badger, told Reuters.
The pipeline had been expected to open last April, but commissioning was suspended due to excess moisture in the gas.
WAPCo Managing Director Jack Derickson said that after months of work with gas suppliers in Nigeria, the moisture content had been reduced.
‘The situation has now improved tremendously at Itoki and we opened the valves again on Dec. 5. We are line-packing right now and a week from now we should have it fully packed to Takoradi,’ Derickson told Reuters.
‘Upon completion of line packing, natural gas will be available at the company’s regulating and metering station at Takoradi, where VRA can then commence their initial commissioning process in preparation for using the gas in their turbines for power generation,’ he said.
VRA’s Badger said there were four 110 MW turbines at Takoradi able to burn gas, but the initial flow through the pipeline would be enough only for two of them.
He said commissioning the turbines would take a week or two once the pipeline was flowing at full pressure.
WAPCo’s Derickson said VRA would initially receive approximately 30 million cubic feet of gas per day, which would be expanded in later phases of the project.
Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company, owns a 36.7 percent stake in WAPCo. Other shareholders include the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC), Shell Overseas Holding Co, Ghana’s Takoradi Power Co. Ltd., Societe Togolaise de Gaz and Societe Beninoise de Gaz.
The West African Gas Pipeline started in 2004 and was substantially completed in 2007.
Credit Kwasi Kpodo