West Africa’s pipeline connectionJanuary 4, 2022
Greg Germani, managing director of West African Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCo), talks to The Energy Year about advances in gas infrastructure in Ghana and the region and the company’s role in connecting the region. WAPCo owns and operates the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP).
How would you assess the development of gas infrastructure in West Africa?
The West African Gas Pipeline Company started commercial operations in March 2011 and over this period there has been significant infrastructure development in the four countries in which we operate, especially in Ghana.
The WAGP transmission system was originally designed and built for transportation of natural gas from abundant supply sources in Nigeria to customers needing natural gas for cleaner and more efficient power generation in Benin, Togo and Ghana. Ghana was the main customer for the WAGP with delivery points at Tema and Takoradi.
Since the original construction of the WAGP, Ghana has developed offshore oil and gasfields that are now able to supply gas to power plants in the Aboadze Power Enclave (near Takoradi). The volume of Ghana’s own natural gas supply at Takoradi has grown beyond the needs of customers in that area.
The WAGP transmission system’s location in Takoradi provided the opportunity to transport gas from the western part of the country to the industrial zone in the east at Tema, where WAPCo already has an existing facility. In collaboration with WAPCo, the government of Ghana, GNPC, Eni, Ghana Gas and a contractor built the Takoradi-Tema Interconnection Project [TTIP]. The TTIP allows the western gas to be moved from Eni’s offshore field through Ghana Gas’ pipeline system in Takoradi, and then it enters the WAPCo system for reverse transportation to the east.
The first part of the TTIP included adding 225 mcf [6.37 mcm] per day gas receipt capabilities at our Takoradi facility, which was completed in 2019. The project also involved an expansion at our Tema facility to 235 mcf [6.65 mcm] per day for increased gas deliveries to power plants in Tema.
The expansion at Tema was completed in July 2020. Thankfully, a majority of the key work was done before the pandemic, final commissioning and completion was safely completed despite the pandemic thanks to all the great support of all the key stakeholders.
In Nigeria, last year we saw a marked improvement in gas supply to the WAGP. The WAGP received gas in Nigeria from a pipeline system operated by the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) which in November 2020 lifted a longstanding force majeure notice that had been impacting gas supply into the WAGP.
NGC had implemented a number of improvements over the years on their system that saw steady improvements in reliable gas supply even before 2020. The year 2020 was transformational as Nigeria’s reliable gas supply met system demand and with the supply of gas from Ghana we now see the ability for gas supply on the WAGP to exceed current demand.
Could you give us an overview of WAPCo’s activities and structure?
We transport natural gas through the WAGP to provide regional energy supply through our local workforces in Ghana, Nigeria, Benin and Togo. We are a private company with both public and private shareholders. Chevron and Shell are private shareholders and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Volta River Authority are the two primary public shareholders.
We supply much-needed energy to communities by providing cleaner, more efficient natural gas for use by power plants in Ghana, Togo and Benin to provide electricity to businesses and households across the region.
WAPCo puts a priority on safe and reliable gas transportation services and this focus has guided our workforce to safely respond during the pandemic to ensure ongoing service with no outages because of the pandemic. We would like to express our appreciation to the governments in Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria, who allowed our critical workers to safely continue vital activities even during periods of full lockdown to meet this critical energy need.
What are WAPCo’s current assets and key projects?
We are celebrating 10 years of commercial operations this year [in 2021]. There have been a lot of challenges in the past with gas volumes being low. This is no longer the case. Our main asset is the 678-kilometre pipeline system that stretches from Lagos in Nigeria, through Benin and Togo and all the way to Takoradi, in Ghana.
We get gas from the NGC’s Escravos-Lagos Pipeline System, which is connected to the main infrastructure in Nigeria in the east and brings gas to the Lagos area. We take gas from there and deliver it to our Badagry asset, where there is a compressor station to deliver the gas into our offshore pipeline system that runs between Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana and mixes with the gas coming from Ghana at our station in Takoradi for delivery to customers in Tema, Lomé and Cotonou. At each of the delivery stations in Tema, Lomé and Cotonou we have specialised equipment to do some final conditioning of the natural gas and measurement of the gas for delivery to power plant customers in those areas.
Our facilities are in operation at all times. Our operators are on duty 24 hours every day at our stations to ensure the safe, reliable and efficient delivery of gas to customers with overall monitoring from our control centre in Accra. Our major focus is maintaining the integrity and reliability of this system. During the last two years we did a lot of work to improve the reliability of the system. Earlier this year we completed a key project to improve the reliability of our compressors station in Badagry with the replacement of a gas cooler package.
What effort has WAPCo made to reduce the impact on the environment?
If power plants and gas pipelines run smoothly, they are more efficient and have less impact on the environment. We have an operational excellence management system that guides us in the implementation of best practices to improve our system’s overall reliability and efficiency to minimise our impact on the environment.
There are new tools that one can use to analyse systems and perform diagnostics, such as thermographic cameras. We are looking at drones and satellites to provide imaging to enable us to improve our proactiveness in the protection of our pipeline.
We are doing small investments to interlink improved demand centres and supply connection points to provide a reliable supply of gas to customers. This will drive up the overall efficiency and reach the honourable minister’s vision of having a reliable source on track. Before the TTIP, we only had one supply source coming from Nigeria.
When we had a disruption outside of our control with the loss of upstream gas supply, we could not deliver needed gas supply to maintain power generation. With the TTIP completed, we have two supply sources providing more reliability for efficient power generation.
What kind of inspection operations do you run on your assets?
Before the pandemic, we internally cleaned and inspected our 560-kilometre offshore pipeline. We ran multiple specialised tools through the pipeline from Nigeria to Takoradi for the internal cleaning and inspection of the pipeline. It took six days for a single tool to travel the entire distance. We did it efficiently and without incident; we were able to gather critical information on the integrity of our line to ensure the long-term integrity of the asset. This year we are doing inspections of our laterals, which tee-off the main pipeline and are much shorter but more complex.
In 2020, we launched the inspection tools onshore and received them onshore. In 2021, we will have to launch the cleaning and inspection tools subsea in up to 80 metres of water with the use of a specialised vessel, equipment and divers. We kicked off this campaign in late November 2021 through December. This programme, along with the one completed [in 2020], is gathering good information that will help us make sure the asset is protected in the long term.
Is WAPCo considering expanding into other markets?
WAPCo started as a vision of ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States]. It took the collaboration of all involved countries to come together and achieve this goal. Both the public and private sectors worked together to put in proper regulations and fiscal frameworks.
ECOWAS is looking at its second phase, which is the potential expansion of the pipeline into Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire as part of their overall vision of a regional West African gas transportation network all the way to Senegal and into landlocked countries within the region. This will give Ghana opportunities for inland developments if nations collaborate.
Gas is a cleaner alternative to other fossil fuels and is more efficient. New power plants are being built in Togo, such as the Kékéli power plant in Lomé. In Ghana there are a variety of plants, and they are starting to see more use of natural gas for fuel supply. There is much more talk about industrial companies using gas, particularly in Tema.
What is WAPCo’s current growth strategy?
Everyone wants reliable energy and demand is growing. We are trying to be more efficient, reliable and competitive. We started with one shipper, and we have grown to two active shippers. We are looking to attract multiple shippers and supply sources on the WAGP to be more efficient. The more gas we move, the more efficient and competitive we are. Our first focus is delivering on our vision of safe, reliable and efficient gas transportation services to our foundation stakeholders in Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria.
As we enter into our new decade of commercial operations, we are looking to significantly improve the image of the WAGP and WAPCo as a safe, reliable and efficient partner in providing cleaner and more efficient energy to the West African region. We are implementing a global industry best practice in the use of a pipeline network code that provides a fair and transparent governance on the use of gas transportation services for customers to quickly and efficiently grow the use of the system.
We are working with local gas distribution companies across Ghana, Togo and Benin for potential new connections at our delivery stations to take advantage of current available unused capacity at each of our stations. We are hopeful some of these new offtakers will see industrial end users as the benefit of these connections, growing the WAGP beyond just supplying gas to power plants. We are even looking at potentially seeing offtake of gas in Nigeria to industrial growth that has occurred around our pipeline in the western side of Nigeria.
We are working with potential additional sources of gas supply connecting to the WAGP across the region, further improving the reliability of gas to meet growing customer demand. All of these efforts we are expecting to progress in achieving our vision of WAPCo being a world-class pipeline company at the centre of gas transmission in the West African sub-region.