ACCRA (Reuters) – Ghana’s economy expanded by 8.5 percent last year, according to a provisional estimate announced from the West African nation’s statistics office on Wednesday, up from 3.7 percent in 2016.
Growth in the fourth quarter of 2017 reached 8.1 percent, it said, compared to 9.7 percent in the third quarter. The third quarter was revised upward from 9.3 percent.
Meanwhile Ghana will launch its first exploration licensing round in the last quarter of this year offering about six offshore blocks, deputy energy minister Mohamed Amin Adam said.
Ghana currently produces 200,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), led by its flagship Jubilee field which produces about 100,000 bpd, he said.
The west African nation, which became a significant oil producer in 2010 when it began pumping from the offshore Jubilee field, is keen to unlock its vast oil and gas resources.
Adam said global oil majors like BP, Shell and some independent producers have shown interest in acquiring a stake in oil assets in Ghana.
“We have asked them to wait for our first bidding round which is scheduled for the last quarter of this year,” Adam told Reuters in New Delhi. He said Ghana would put up another six offshore blocks for auction next year.
Drawn to Ghana’s hydrocarbon potential, ExxonMobil Corp recently signed a deal with Ghana to explore for oil in the Deepwater Cape Three Point offshore (DWCTP) oilfield.
Exxon is doing due diligence to find a local partner to explore the block, a condition required to operate a field in Ghana, he said.
“Once they select the local partner, we are ready to go to parliament for ratification,” he said. He refused to elaborate on the timeline for completing the deal.
Aker Energy AS, controlled by Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Roekke, agreed in February to buy Hess Corporation’s Ghana unit in a $100 million deal, gaining access to a 50 percent stake in the deepwater Tano Cape Three Points block.
The block holds an estimated 550 million barrels of oil equivalent in contingent resources and potential for a further 400 million barrels.
Adam said Aker may not have to pay capital gains tax on its transaction with Hess as the block is covered by a stability clause.
Stability clauses guarantee that the terms of an oil contract stay the same throughout its life.
“Some of our contracts are covered by stability clauses … the contract with Hess was covered under a stability agreement so any transfer of ownership may not require capital gains tax,” he added.
However, he cautioned, the question is subject to interpretation by Ghana revenue authorities.
He said Italy’s Eni which has stake in two blocks in Ghana wants more blocks in the nation.
Ghana wants to be a petroleum hub for west Africa. It has drawn up plans to build four refineries of about 150,000 bpd each in the next 12 years, he said.
Ghana’s only oil refinery, the Tema Oil Refinery, processes about 25,000 bpd of oil, far below its capacity.
“Very soon we will launch a programme to attract investment into refineries,” he added.
Reporting by Promit Mukherjee and Nidhi Verma; Editing by Adrian Croft