The History of Oil Exploration in Ghana: PNDC/NDC, CPP, Others also deserve unequivocal Commendation

I will always acknowledge President Kufour’s accomplishment when it comes to our oil discovery. We really should give him credit for the work he did. That notwithstanding, distorting the history of our oil exploration is dangerous and unacceptable.

Give credit where the credit is due. It sounds obvious but it doesn’t always happen in this country. We must avoid this temptation of always blaming others for our woes and failures. When setbacks occur, weak leaders look for a scapegoat or a rationalisation instead of solutions. This diminishes the masses social capital.

The history of oil exploration in Ghana dates back to 1896 in onshore Tano basin in the Western Region. The early explorers found onshore oil and gas in that area. The wells were drilled by West Africa Oil and Fuel Company between 1896 and 1903. The second well on the Takinta concession with a total of 35 metres, produced 5 bopd between 1896 and 1897. International oil companies stormed the shores of Ghana between 1909 to 1925. French oil company, Societe Franchise de Petrole drilled six onshore wells between 1909 and 1913. African and Eastern Trade Corporation also drilled two wells two wells in onshore Tano between 1923 and 1925.

The exploration resumed in 1956. Gulf oil company acquired onshore Tano license and drilled four wells at Bonyere, Epunsa and Kabnaswaso between 1956 and 1957. So, from 1896 to 1957 (61 years), 17 onshore well had been drilled in the Tano basin. Under the Cpp government, the Soviet and Romanian Geoscientists explored for oil and gas in Accra/Keta and Voltaian basins. The Soviet team discovered traces of oil and gas in some of the boreholes in some areas in the Northern and Upper East regions.

Between 1972 and 1979 under the SMC 1&2 administrations, oil exploration for commercial oil, both onshore and offshore intensified. Seventeen wells were drilled. Two onshore in the AccraKeta basin and others in the Volta basin. In 1978, the Saltpond Field can on stream and started oil production with Agri-Petco as the explorer. Later in 1978, Philips Petroleum drilled the first deeper water well in the South Dixcove in the offshore Cape Three points.

In the early 80s, the PNDC government established a new statutory and legal framework for petroleum exploration. The GNPC was established in 1983 and the government passed the Petroleum Exploration and Production Law in 1984 and went on to promulgate the Petroleum Income Tax in 1987. This enabled the government to sign several Petroleum agreements with some international oil companies such as Atlantic Richfield corporation, Amoco, and Diamond Shamrock. The administration also received support from the Canadian government through Petro Canada to acquire extensive 2D seismic data in the offshore Tano/Cape 3 points Basin. The Japanese government also assisted the government by acquiring offshore 2D seismic data for GNPC in 1987. In 1989, GNPC funded the acquisition, processing and interpretation of the 3D seismic data and commissioned studies to determine the viability of the Integrated Tano Fields Development Project to use the gas to power generation.

Before the establishment of the GNPC, Ghana had 54 offshore and onshore wells. In the late 90s an extensive 2D seismic data was acquired offshore Saltpond Field. The WCTP-2X was discovered in deep water by Hunt oil.

Prior to the Mahogany discovery in 2007, the GNPC which was established by the PNDC government had spent resources recovering, reorganizing and interpreting Petroleum data available to improve oil exploration database and packaging. Oil companies such as Anadarko, Tullow oil, Kosmos Energy etc were attracted to work in Ghana because these promotional efforts.

In 2007 under the Kufour administration, Ghana discovered significant oil and gas accumulation and commencement of production of the Jubilee field in November 2010 under late Prof Mills administration.


After the Ghana’s oil and gas industry came on stream in 2010, significant achievements have been recorded in both up and down streams especially during the time of President Mahama. The achievements include US$ 7 billion Sankofa Gye Nyame Field investment which was signed by the Mahama administration. The Sankofa Gye Nyame Fields development came on the heel of the success of two fields which discovered in the same offshore area. The first, the jubilee field (Tullow oil). It was followed by the Tweneboa, Enyenra, Ntomme (TEN) fields. This project involved the construction of Ghana’s second FPSO, which was named after the late President Mills. In 2013, the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum approved a development plan by Tullow for TEN project, which paved the way for Tullow and its partners to proceed with the development and to define the final schedule and capital program aimed of delivering first oil by mid 2016 and to enable a steady ramp up to the expected capacity production rate of 80,000 bopd

The Mahama administration also unlocked the hydrocarbon potential of the inland Voltaian basin. The GNPC spent almost $20 million to drill six narrow holes in determined hydrocarbon presence in the Voltaian basin.

The Mahama administration also enacted the Petroleum Regulation on local content and participation Act which took effect on February 1 2014. The Act is for the upstream sector of the Petroleum sector to give preference to local groups in the granting of license for petroleum activities. The law also give Ghana the opportunity to own up to five percent in any investment by an international company. As at 2015, out of about 7,000 people employed in the upstream sector, there were 5,590 Ghanaians and 1,350 expatriates. Thus, out of a total value of $6.27 billion of contract awarded from 2010 to the third quarter of 2015 in the Petroleum industry, over $1 billion went to Ghanaian companies. In 2015, 41 percent of investment in the Petroleum industry amounting to $201 million of the total of $792 million for that year were awarded to Ghanaian companies which were in the business of manufacturing module stools, jumpers, Sleepers,riser blades, manifold etc.

The Mahama administration also rehabilitated the Bolgatanga Bulk oil storage and transportation company depot to enhance movement of Petroleum products from the southern Ghana to the northern enclave.

By Ohenenana Obonti Krow 

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