The country’s first ever oil field infrastructure decommissioning works has begun at the Saltpond Oil Field at Hini near Saltpond in the Central Region.
The decommissioning vessels arrived in the country in the early hours of last Thursday from Lagos and got to Saltpond last Saturday to start the decommissioning exercise and shut its wells permanently.
This is because the oil field, also known as Mr Louie, has outlived its economic life, according to the Ghana National Petroleum Commission, (GNPC).
The decommissioning contract is being undertaken by a wholly owned Ghanaian company, Hans and Co. Oil and Gas Company, leveraging a consortium of experts of varied professional backgrounds gathered from around the world to ensure all necessary procedural, technical and social controls and mitigation measures were rightly executed to reduce environmental impact to the barest minimum.
The GNPC at a press briefing at Hini near Saltpond in the Central Region last Sunday said this was because the current structural integrity of the field could not be vouched for.
The General Manager, Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations at the GNPC, Dr Kwame Baah-Nuako, who addressed the press, said the GNPC was collaborating with all relevant regulatory agencies to ensure the safest processes in the context of the environment within which the field was situated.
Dr Baah-Nuako noted that the decommissioning would take about one year to complete.
Avoid fishing close
For the time being, he advised fishermen in some communities around the area not to fish in the 500-metre radius of the project for safety reasons.
Production at the field was stopped in 2015 after the field exhausted its reserves to a low of 200 barrels a day and, therefore, unable to meet operational cost becoming unprofitable.
Dr Baah-Nuako explained that the decommissioning works would involve the safe plugging or sealing of the wells in the seabed from which the oil was drawn and the disposal of the equipment used during the offshore oil production.
It would also ensure the removal of the subsea infrastructure and the host production facility to pave way for the safe use of the sea area where the production facility stood.
He said the decommissioned, which was announced in 2016, was because the platform and wells were in deplorable state, posing danger to the crew on board and seafarers.
He stated that the wells and wellhead were also in a deplorable state, a breach of which could lead to spillage of oil which would adversely impact on aquatic life and the lives of fishermen and those with facilities along the beach.
He noted that any incident could affect the reputation of the GNPC and ultimately affect the social licence to operate.
He said potential impacts included discharge into the sea, accidental releases of residual contamination pipelines and other hazardous and non hazardous waste materials would be managed effectively in full compliance with all relevant legislation and regulatory controls.
Three phase project
He further explained that the first phase of the three-phase decommissioning project, which includes the decommissioning plan, budget and procurement strategy, was done between March 2018 and November 2018.
The second included the procurement of a contractor to execute the work and the last phase the post decommissioning monitoring and evaluation.
He stated that the GNPC could possibly explore for new fields in the area in the future.
Building local capacities
He stated that the GNPC had support the education of some youth in the communities and developed educational infrastructure in some communities and various educational institutions to help build local capacity to manage the fields.
He gave the assurance that the GNPC would work to restore that area of the sea to its former state.
The acting President of the Nkusukum Traditional Area, Nana Brebo III called for more infrastructure development in affected communities.
The Saltpond Oil Field is the oldest oil field offshore Ghana discovered in 1970 by Amoco Consortium and started production in 1978 after changing hands to Agri-Petco of the United States.