Future prospects for LNG demand in Ghana

With energy demand in Africa forecast to grow quickly in the coming decades, the prospects of LNG imports have been talked up by many commentators, with Ghana being thought of as one of the brightest prospects. Ghana first began developing its gas market by importing pipeline gas from Nigeria, along the West African Gas Pipeline, at the end of 2008, to replace the burning of expensive light crude oil in power plants.  However, the supply of gas from Nigeria has not lived up to expectations, with Nigerian suppliers failing to deliver the contractual amounts, the pipeline being occasionally breached and non-payment by Ghana becoming a problem in 2014.  At the same time, Ghana began to develop its own gas reserves, with the start-up of associated gas from the Tullow-operated Jubilee field in 2014, followed by the TEN field in 2016.  In 2018 the start-up of the Sankofa field will add significantly to the level of domestic production. However, even with optimistic projections on the growth in electricity generation, combined with an assumption that all power plants which can burn gas will do so, there appears to be no room in the market for LNG until after 2020 at the earliest.  Additionally, there have been a number of abortive attempts to develop Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) projects, with the lack of enforceable contracts, inability to put in place the necessary infrastructure and creditworthiness all being concerns. The IEA in WEO 2017 was relatively bullish on the prospects for gas demand growth in Africa, assisted in part by the deployment of FSRUs.  However, the experience of Ghana suggests that these prospects may be over-optimistic. If the LNG glut that so many are expecting does not materialise then Ghana, like Ivory Coast, may have missed the boat in terms of accessing cheap LNG via FSRU. African gas demand growth should be centred on using locally domestic resources. This will not help to foster FIDs for African LNG projects as they won’t get any regional customers and would therefore have to compete in the other regional markets (Asia, Europe and Latin America).

By: Mike Fulwood , Thierry Bros