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GNPC prepares for foreign oilfields

BY: Arku Jasmine

Mr Thomas Manu — Director, Operations, GNPC The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) has commenced an internal restructuring process aimed at enhancing the capacity of its staff and building a stronger financial base that will make it competitive and capable of exploring for and producing oil in and outside the country.
The process includes recapitalisation, upgrading the expertise of staff and acquiring the neccessary technical expertise relevant to the operation of oil exploration and production (E&P).

The Director of Operations at GNPC, Mr Thomas Manu, who disclosed this in an interview, added that a successful completion of these processes will make it possible for the corporation to enter into commercial agreements with existing oil (E&P) companies or counterpart national oil companies (NOCs) to buy oilfields of interest outside Ghana's own petroleum resource boundaries.

GNPC, he said, could as well “merge with or acquire” other oil companies operating in or outside the country in an attempt to tap the prospects of the international petroleum industry.

Given that the overall objective of every oil company is always to have sufficient reserves from which it can feed on and bring good returns to its owners, Mr Manu said GNPC would not hesitate to participate in the exploration and production of oil in other countries, should that opportunity arise in the near future.

“If at any point we feel that the reserves in the country are diminishing and there is the need to replenish our stock and get the corporation running, why not; we won't hesitate to look at foreign markets," he told the paper on August 14.

Previous attempts

Exploring for and producing oil and gas in foreign lands is not entirely new to the GNPC.

The corporation, in the 1990s, produced oil in Angola after it won a contract with that country's NOC, Sonangol, in 1992 to drill and ultimately produce two of the latter's offshore oilfields.

Although the contract with Sonangol saw GNPC receiving some of the oil produced in return for the services rendered, years of fruitless exploration for oil back home caused the government at the time to cut funding to the corporation.

This led to a massive contraction in the operations of GNPC, then partly causing it to dabble into areas beyond the E&P of hydrocarbons.

Its workforce, for instance, declined from about 700 employees in the latter part of the 1990s to about 70 people in early 2000. This was on the back of dwindling interest in GNPC’s activities which, then, failed to hit oil in commercial quantities.

On the form that such venture into foreign markets will take, Mr Manu said the timing and circumstances necessitating that move “will determine how we will do it.”

“It could mean merging or acquiring other companies or going out on our own,” he added.

Mr Manu, however, added that the venture into foreign lands could only happen after the corporation had properly equipped itself with the requisite human resource and technical know-how needed to operate as a fully-fledged E&P company both in and outside the country.

He mentioned the launching of the GNPC Oil and Gas Learning Foundation, which is to provide financial support to trainees in the petroleum sector, as one of the strategies being used to harness the right professionals for the job ahead.

Recapitalising GNPC

Notwithstanding GNPC's legal permit to operate in foreign lands, taking such a move will require massive capital injection from the government, the sole owner, or external investors. That is because exploring for and producing oil has always been a capital -ntensive business.

The GNPC’s Director of Operations is thus optimistic the ongoing recapitalisation of the corporation will help it attain the required financial muscle required of an E&P company.

“We are currently undergoing a recapitalisation.  That is done, first, by ensuring that we acquire more liquid assets which can later be relied on as collateral should we want to borrow from the international capital market or raise funds through other sources,” he explained.

He, however, declined to mention how much the recapitalisation is aimed at raising and when that move together, with other preparatory works aimed at enhancing the corporation's technical ability, will end for it to start looking for oil deals outside the country.

“Nobody knows when that will be done but when the time comes, the venture into foreign markets will be announced, it will be done in broad consultation and in a manner that will benefit the good people of Ghana,” Mr Manu added.

By Maxwell Adombila Akalaare/Graphic Business/Ghana