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US company to build another power plant for Ghana?

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The Akosombo Dam - Ghana's first hydro-power plant.
The Akosombo Dam – Ghana’s first hydro-power plant.

A Texas-based US company, HPI, LLC is claiming it has been awarded a contract by the Ghana government to design and build a 145 MW power plant in Ghana for the Volta River Authority (VRA), in a press release obtained by ghanabusinessnews.com Tuesday  April 14, 2009.

Intense investigations by ghanabusinessnews.com, has however revealed otherwise – it appears there is no such contract in the offing. But why would a company that claims to be reputable put up such a widely circulated press statement and make a claim that does not exist? This is a million dollar question waiting for answers.

In the press statement moreover, no amount was quoted for the project, and the date of the award contract was not mentioned as well, neither was the name of endorsing officials mentioned.

And when ghanabusinessnews.com contacted officials of the VRA in Ghana for confirmation, officials told us that “there is no such project to their knowledge.” However, an official said a power plant project was initiated with the former government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for Takoradi in the Western region, but the official added, “the ground was not even broken.”

When officials of HPI in London were contacted they told us they were unaware of the details and they referred us to the Houston, Texas offices of HPI because they signed the deal. Another curious development this is. This is curious, because in the press statement HPI, LLC described the project as a “representation of a rapidly growing segment of its business as a provider of turnkey electric power generation plants.”

How could HPI’s London office be unaware of a major project that is a “representation of a rapidly growing segment of its business as a provider of turnkey electric power generation plants.”

HPI, LLC which was formed in 2002 claims it is a market leader in the supply of turbine control solutions and turnkey electric power plants.

Further to our quest to establish the facts we made several phone calls to HPI, LLC’s Houston, Texas offices but were initially told there was no appropriate official to speak to us on the said Ghana project.

But eventually we got to speak to an official who gave his name as Ozzy Pahi of Business Development who agreed to answer our enquiries. He returned our call and asked that we emailed our questions to be answered. And we sent only five questions.

These were the questions we asked:

1. When was the said contract signed and where?

2. Who signed for your company and who signed for the Ghana government?

3. What is the total cost of the project?

4. In your press release, you referred to the Canadian Government’s Economic Development Corporation ministry as a prime contractor, please
can you explain that role to us?

5. When is the project expected to take off?

After we sent these questions we followed up with a phone call which was received by the company’s CEO, Hal Pontez who passed the handset on to Ozzy Pahi. Ozzy Pahi then confirmed he has received our email and would respond soon.

After some time he replied and said, “Emmanuel, I will get back to you soon.”

We waited after several hours and received an email from him hoping it contained answers to our enquiries, but no answers were given. The email contained the following:

“Emmanuel, we will have the information you have requested available closer to May 15th, 2009. Please give me a ring after that date and I can discuss with you further.

Thank you.

Best Regards,

Ozzy Pahi
Business Development.”

Our checks with the Canadian High Commission in Ghana also drew a blank about the Canadian Government’s Economic Development Corporation ministry that was mentioned in the statement.

According to the statement, the Canadian Government’s Economic Development Corporation ministry is the prime contractor. But Canadian High Commission Officials told us there was no such organization or unit in the system.

HPI, LLC said in the statement that commercial operations of the project is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2010.

It also said the project is expected to be built on what is known as the distributed power concept using combined cycle turbine technology from Ukrainian state gas turbine manufacturer Zorya-Mashproekt.

According to HPI, LLC, the prefabrication of the major plant systems would be done in the US and Canada to allow for easy assembly and commissioning in Ghana.

The company said, utilizing high efficiency turbine engines, the combined cycle process of the project is expected to achieve a 50% efficiency rating.  The strategy is also expected to reduce installation costs, construction lead-time and mitigate risk, while making the configuration easier to repeat in future power plants.

Indeed the President and CEO of HPI, was quoted in the statement saying, “We at HPI will be able to deliver an optimized, efficient and environmentally friendly power solution to the Volta River Authority, which we plan to provide again and again for their future power project needs.”

“Our modular Volta River Power plant design will fast-track the final assembly and construction in Ghana.  The configuration has the advantage of being easily replicated elsewhere, with minimum changes.  The plant’s smaller environmental footprint comes from its ability to use either LCO or natural gas; reducing environmental impact as it will burn Light Crude Oil that never required the energy for total refinement and gas that previously had been disposed of through flaring.   Smaller, packaged power plants like Takoradi represent a significant and important trend as countries seek to quickly develop their electrical system infrastructure with less of an environmental impact,” he said.

Energy supply is one of the major challenges to Ghana’s economy.

The country has been experiencing power shortages for some time now. The country’s only hydropower plant at Akosombo is facing perennial water shortages which is affecting  power supply, occasionally plunging the entire country into darkness.

The country has constructed a thermal plant in Takoradi to supplement its power supply needs.

There is an ongoing project to build another 400 MW hydropower plant at the Bui dam in the Brong Ahafo region, but a lot more needs to be done to meet the power supply requirements that would bolster economic growth.

Who has the answers? Has the Ghana government given HPI, LLC a contract to build a power plant for the country or not?

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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