In March, GE Oil & Gas opened a new facility in Takoradi Port, Ghana. With a 1,600m2 indoor test area and 4,000 m2 of storage, the facility will act as the primary service centre for deepwater offshore projects in the region. Notably, it will also provide direct employment and training opportunities for the local community.

“We are committed to partnering with Ghana to help support building critical skills and developing infrastructure for the country’s future growth,” said Lorenzo Simonelli, president and CEO of GE Oil & Gas, at the opening ceremony.

The building will initially support Eni’s Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) project, an integrated oil and gas development project described by the World Bank as a “top priority”. GE has been involved in this project since 2015, having been awarded an $850m contract to supply equipment. The new facility, as well as providing support services, will enable the fast assembly and testing of subsea elements.

GE’s investment will also cover more than 45,000 training hours for Ghanaian personnel over the next five years. This will enable the company to build a world-class team locally, while supporting the broader community.

“As part of the localisation programme that we run, we now have about 40 Ghanaian staff, including full service engineers, field technicians, salespeople, finance people, and the whole support infrastructure,” says Ado Oseragbaje, GE’s president and CEO for Sub-Saharan Africa. “This is a considerable jump from the one or two we employed in 2011. We’re also looking to support some of the SMEs we have in the country, with a view to developing not just our employees but also the local supply chain.”

Jumpstarting an industry

The oil and gas sector in Ghana has been touted as essential to the country’s economic development. At a time when the government is stepping up its infrastructure investment, the country’s hydrocarbon reserves may prove key to jumpstarting industrialisation.

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This in turn has created opportunities for private investors. The OCTP project, which includes the combined development of five oil fields, is operated by the Italian multinational Eni, in partnership with Vitol Ghana Upstream and the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation. GE’s role in the proceedings (to supply turbomachinery and subsea elements) forms just part of an overall $7bn investment.

“The new facility will not engineer the equipment from scratch, but it will ensure an important part of the process is based in Ghana.”

The new facility will not engineer the equipment from scratch, but it will ensure an important part of the process is based in Ghana.

“The service centre was constructed with a vision to receive the subsea trees that are manufactured elsewhere, and handle them during the testing and customer verification phase before sending them off for deployment,” says Oseragbaje.

“And then in the future it will manage all the services associated with those trees, and activity related to servicing that contract.”

He adds that while the OCTP contract is the sole point of focus for now, the facility has potential to support many additional projects. “It is currently a service centre for OCTP, but we are taking a view to expanding and supporting other activities in North West Africa,” he says.

Training talent

Already, the facility seems to be having a positive economic impact on Ghana.

“We had a local partner involved in the construction of the facility, and of course we employed local people in the design and construction and the ongoing management of the facility itself,” says Oseragbaje. “We’ve also been supporting some of our suppliers to develop themselves to the level where they can supply products and services within the offshore environment.”

On top of that, the company’s training opportunities could spell the beginnings of a solid Ghanaian talent pipeline.

“It goes beyond the training of technical personnel – we have financial management and commercial leadership programmes, and we’re looking at the skills base more broadly,” Oseragbaje continues.

This emphasis on training is nothing new for GE Oil & Gas. In January 2015, the company partnered with Ghana National Petroleum Corporation and Ashesi University College to build capacity for the local oil and gas sector. Having committed $3.5m to the partnership, it is working with Ashesi to develop a curriculum applicable to the Ghanaian oil industry, and has created a scholarship fund to support Ghanaian students studying in relevant fields.

The company has also partnered with the Ghanaian Supply Chain Development project to build up small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The US Ambassador to Ghana, Robert Jackson, has described this as “not only a commitment to Ghana – it’s a commitment to transitioning from donor funding towards private sector-led growth”.

Opportunities ahead

Looking to the years ahead, Oseragbaje is highly optimistic about Ghana’s prospects – and about GE’s involvement within that.

“Ghana has been a tremendous growth story for GE Oil & Gas, coming from having very little footprint six or seven years ago,” he says. “Since then, we’ve become a part of the fabric of the Ghanaian oil and gas space. We still see two to three major projects on the horizon for Ghana, and we also believe there’s a lot of potential for neighbouring countries like Nigerian and Sierre Leone, where oil and gas are relatively underexplored. So we think offshore will come back, and quite a lot of that work can be done in the Takoradi facility.”

In future, he envisages the infrastructure will function as a regional hub, which could help support the oil and gas industry across the North West African axis. Although this is some way afield, early indications suggest the ambition is not unrealistic.

“The facility has been quite positively received, especially given the industry context of the last few years.”

“The facility has been quite positively received, especially given the industry context of the last few years,” he says. “We take a very long-term view of the region and of Ghana in particular, which is why we’ve been bold enough to invest in this facility. One of our considerations is how we might expand the facility to take into account what we see.

This confidence is fuelled, in part, by GE Oil & Gas’ upcoming merger with Baker Hughes. Once this merger is complete, GE will be able to present a larger portfolio of services to its African customers.

“We’ll be able to expand our services more into the upstream arena, which then gives us the opportunity to tie in our subsea capability with Baker Hughes’ construction ability, and then expand our footprint in Ghana,” says Oseragbaje.

While the oil and gas sector is new to Ghana’s economic development, this nascent industry holds many opportunities for Ghanaian private enterprise. Through investments like the one in Takoradi, GE is not only looking to strengthen its own presence in the region – it is also looking to support local business more broadly.