Sahara Energy sets sight on thermal plant

Nigerian energy group, Sahara Energy, says it is considering building a thermal plant in Ghana by next year to add to the generation capacity of the country.

A source at the company’s Ghana country office told the Graphic Business that the energy group was holding discussions with the Volta River Authority (VRA) – which it still lifts crude oil for – towards the construction of the about 2000 megawatts plant in Ghana.

Sahara Energy, which started operating in the country in 2001 when it lifted crude oil for the Tema Oil Refinery and the VRA, has already commissioned the single largest thermal plant in its home country Nigeria, which has a large demand for power but produces little.

“We just completed the plant in Nigeria. As it has been our trademark, we want to complete all the learning process before we replicate it here in Ghana,” the source said.

The Sahara Group, through its subsidiary, owns a 70 per cent stake (controlling interest) in the Egbin Thermal Power Plant located in Lagos, Nigeria, with current generating capacity of 1,320 megawatts (MW) with planned expansion to 2,640MW, a feat the company hopes to replicate in Ghana in a few years. Egbin is Nigeria’s largest thermal power distributor.

The group also holds 60 per cent interest in Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company, Nigeria’s largest power distributor, which delivers power to over 600,000 homes.

Sahara also owns a 70 per cent stake in First Independent Power Ltd located in Rivers State, Nigeria, which comprises four power plants: Afam I & II – 360MW; Eleme – 75MW; Omoku – 150MW, and Trans Amadi I & II – 136MW.

These make the company the single largest producer of power in Nigeria and this should certainly be good news for VRA and the country as a whole.

The source told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that Sahara Group was expecting to become the single largest producer of power in Ghana, bringing on board its expertise and experience from similar project in Nigeria.

The source was full of praise for the country’s energy experts and engineers, saying it wasn’t their competence that was failing the country, but to a large extent the country’s over-reliance on hydro power which faced perennial challenge of water shortage in the reservoir in a 10-year cycle.

Since it began operations in Ghana, Sahara Energy has been growing its footprints. It has expanded from being an oil lifter for the government into building retail outlets in major cities.

Sahara also runs the largest private sector build storage facility at Tema.

Ghana has generation deficit of fluctuating levels between 150MW to 250MW. It gets worse when generation plants are shut down for routine maintenance or in times of breakdown.

The country relies largely on hydroelectric energy which has been disappointing of late because of low levels of water in the Akosombo, Kpong and Bui dams, which together have the capacity to generate 2,580MW.

There are other thermal generators such as TAPCO (T1), which has the installed capacity to generate 330 MW. TICO (T2) can generate 220MW. Sunon Asogli can generate 200MW, with T3 having installed capacity to generate 132MW, each from thermal sources, gas or light crude oil.

Ghana’s total installed capacity is 2,846.5 MW out of which the VRA contributes 2,104.5MW about 75 per cent, with independent power producers contributing 726MW, about 12 per cent.

There are some projects in the pipeline. They include the upgrading of Sunon Asogli to generate 360MW more. The company also wants to build a 700MW zero discharge coal plant in the Western Region.

The Chairman of the private power company, Mr Li Xiaohai, said earlier this year that having successfully delivered a 200-megawatt plant at Kpone, near Tema, the next phase must involve the installation of bigger machinery which would be more efficient and cost effective, hence the decision to use a coal plant.

The VRA is also building a 220MW Thermal Power Project at Kpone (KTPP), which is expected in the first quarter 2015, according to VRA CEO, Mr Kirk Koffi.

The American firm, General Electric (GE), is also readying to locate the Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU), a floating natural gas vessel, to produce 1,000MW of power to supplement the country’s power needs.

The Regional Manager of GE Ghana and West Africa, Mr Leslie Nelson, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that the first phase of the project is expected to add 360MW power to the national grid by September 2016.

Other projects include Cenpower’s Kpone power plant which will deliver 350MW Combined Cycle Gas Turbine to be ready in 2017.

It is also expected that after the publication of feed-in-tariffs by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURC), effective September 1, 2013, more IPPs would be encouraged into the production of energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind and biomass. Landfill site and sewage and hydro will come on-stream in the coming years.

source : Graphic Online