Thursday, July 9, 2009

Petrol Crisis Hits Accra

The nation's capital, Accra, yesterday went "gallon in hand" this time not for water, but for petrol, as most filling stations went out of stock. Heavy vehicular traffic was witnessed at most fuel stations, as drivers queued or moved from one filling station to the other, for the scarce commodity.Initial signals picked by The Chronicle indicated that the rehabilitation work currently ongoing at the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) accounted for the problem as the shortage occurred only a few days after TOR was shut down again, for some major maintenance works. The Refinery was shut down in February 2009 for maintenance works, but barely a week after it started operations, it was shut down.The Chief Executive Officer of TOR, Dr. Kwame Ampofo explained that the shutdown became necessary to enable its engineers carry out full maintenance works to ensure that the refinery operates at full capacityWhen The Chronicle sought an explanation for the current shortages, Dr. Kwame Ampofo was quick to direct the reporter to Mr. Alex Mould, acting Chief Executive of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) for an explanation, since in his opinion it is the NPA that oversees the operations of the other players of the oil market industry in the country.His explanation was that as a result of de-regulation and liberalization of the downstream petroleum sector, other players in the oil industry were free to bring in finished petroleum products, hence TOR could not be blamed for the shortage.Under the deregulation policy, private sector investors are also allowed to build and operate their own refineries in the country, with the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) in place to oversee and regulate the oil sector. He argued that the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) was shut down for over six months and yet the country did not go dry on fuel.The Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the National Petroleum Authority, Mr. Stephen Larbi told the paper that the Authority was trying to gather stocks from other centers in the country to salvage the situation, but could not give details as to what really accounts for the shortage. He also directed the paper to seek further clarification from the Tema Oil Refinery on the subject. Meanwhile information reaching The Chronicle suggest that the heavy indebtedness by the Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to the Tema Oil Refinery was a major contributor to the current fuel shortage.The new administration of TOR, early this year cut off supply to some Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) which have exceeded their grace period in paying their debts, and thus the shortages being experienced at the pumps could be artificially created by some cash trapped OMCs.However, government paid a lump sum of $72 million to settle the TOR under recovery debt for 2008 a couple of weeks ago, to enable it carry out its functions effectively.Government's intervention at meeting Ghana's energy needs, especially in the petroleum sector, has witnessed some impressive outcome as Libya recently joined Nigeria to supply Ghana with crude.President John Evans Atta Mills struck the latest deal with Muammmer Al-Qadafi of Libya at the just ended 13th Ordinary summit of the African Union, in Libya last week.This new deal comes only a month after Ghana secured an assurance from the Nigerian government to supply crude to Ghana on friendly terms. Under that agreement, Nigeria pledged to supply Ghana with 65,000 barrels of crude daily, on a 90 days credit terms.

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