A central role in Ghana’s gas transitionDecember 14, 2021
Hayssam Fakhry, managing director of Interplast, talks to The Energy Year about the company’s central role in Ghana’s transition to gas and the expansion of the country’s gas distribution infrastructure. Interplast produces plastic pipe systems for markets in West Africa.
What is Interplast’s role in the transition to gas in Ghana?
Ghana is at a turning point in regard to its plan to transition to a gas-fuelled economy, and the stakeholders involved are setting up the needed infrastructure to successfully deliver the government’s plan. In terms of gas distribution, from gas processing facilities to every type of consumer, Interplast has a leading advantage of experience developing HDPE pipes that can handle multiple levels of pressure. These are the last link in the gas supply chain.
Ghana could boost its energy transition and take natural gas to every home and every factory. We have the capacity and the know-how to make this happen. We are speaking with the authorities about that, but it is still early days. A national plan for gas distribution will even improve industries’ power reliability, as it will allow them to connect to the national gas transmission system.
To deliver a well-rounded energy transition, industries should have freedom of choice regarding whether their main source of power is electricity or gas. For instance, if Interplast had the opportunity, we would probably connect to an available gas pipeline and run on natural gas instead of relying on an unstable supply from an electricity company.
Which is the preferred product for expanding natural gas distribution infrastructure?
Polyethylene gas pipes are the preferred choice, particularly in buried low-pressure pipe systems such as distribution systems, especially due to their high ductility, toughness and elasticity at a wide variety of ambient temperatures. The material’s resistance to surge and fatigue eliminates the necessity of a higher pressure rating and investments in anti-surge devices. The welded joints are reliable and completely tight so no gas can escape.
Because of the welding ability and elasticity of polyethylene, long lengths can be assembled outside the trench. For instance, they are preferred in trenchless and “narrow trenching” installations.
Our polyethylene gas pipes, available in outside diameter sizes ranging from 20 mm to 1,200 mm, are produced according to the EN 1555-2 international standard. The small sizes of up to 125 mm in diameter are available in coils. Larger sizes are available in standard pipe lengths of 6 and 12 metres or optimised for container transport in lengths of 5.8 and 11.8 metres. We also offer long-length pipe solutions of up to 20 metres for projects in Ghana and selected West African countries.
Can you give us an overview of Interplast’s structure and main activities?
Founded in 1970, we are a 100% privately owned company with around 700 employees. Our main focuses are providing pipes for water and gas, and the telecom business. The raw materials for water and gas pipes are practically the same, and we import all of them.
In the US, they have just begun using our same plastic to transport wastewater. Hopefully, it will happen here as well. If you want to move water, this is the best product to use. We have two ISO certifications, namely 9001:2015 and OHS 45001. We are talking to Ghana Gas about possible projects together. Our plastic is not single-use; it will last up to 100 years or even more. You don’t see these pipes lying in the gutters or on the side of the streets. Our product goes underground, and we recycle in-house. We have zero waste here.
How would you evaluate the competitiveness of Ghana’s electricity sector?
Interplast is the biggest purchaser of electricity in Accra and electricity is our company’s biggest cost. We are at a disadvantage compared to our neighbouring countries in terms of electricity savings because it is too expensive, and it is very erratic. Electricity needs to provide power properly and constantly, and only then can it become much more profitable.
How is Interplast planning to expand regionally?
The electricity costs make us less competitive, so to be competitive in the region we take less of a profit, and we must be more efficient. We export pipes to over 23 African countries. We are targeting West and Central Africa, especially Nigeria, while we sell a bit in Angola as well.
West Africa is still a baby industrially – water, telecoms and gas are needed everywhere, so the future is good for Interplast. Our long-term goal is to become the biggest supplier in Africa.