Ghanaians for a long time, under different regimes have been given false hopes about the return of the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) to full operational capacity.
Launching he Sentuo Oil Refinery in an initiative to reduce Ghana’s reliance on oil importation, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, said “It is essential to recognize that some ninety-seven percent (97%) of our current consumption of petroleum products is imported, resulting in a heavy reliance on external sources. This overreliance not only poses economic challenges such as high costs, and the constant drain on our foreign currency reserves, but also limits our ability to control prices and ensure a stable supply.
“The establishment of this refinery signifies our commitment to reducing this dependence, achieving self-sufficiency, and driving the growth of our domestic petroleum industry,” the president wrote on his Facebook page after the commissioning.
He added that the government is committed to revamping the Tema Oil Refinery and that it will stop at nothing to ensure its operationalisation.
“The challenges of another domestic oil refinery, the Tema Oil Refinery, are well documented. Nonetheless, I want to assure the Ghanaian people that the Government remains committed to the full operationalization of TOR, and we will stop at nothing to bring it back onstream so that, together with Sentuo, more and more of our oil will be refined right here in Ghana.”
TOR, according to available information has not refined any crude oil since March 2021. Meanwhile the workers are paid every month and the government does not have the $100 million needed to revamp the refinery or sovereign guarantee to be given to any company to bring crude oil to TOR.
This disappointing development is just the latest chapter in the sad saga of TOR. The refinery which has has an output capacity of about 6,138 metric tonnes per day, has been practically dormant for years.
The impact on the Ghanaian economy has been immense. The lack of domestic refining capacity forces Ghana to import the bulk of its fuel needs.
This is a massive drain on scarce foreign exchange reserves. It also leaves consumers at the mercy of global oil price volatility and dependent on foreign suppliers.
The sorry state of TOR causes Ghana an estimated loss of thousands of potential jobs, economic opportunities, energy security and national pride.
So why is Ghana failing to remap TOR? The reasons are complex, but boil down to poor management, corruption, sabotage and a lack of political will for reform.
For decades, TOR, has been a cash cow for corrupt officials, who benefit more from importing fuel than refining it at home.
This newspaper is appealing to the government to take sincere steps to get TOR operational. This includes proper project oversight, accountability for funds, utilizing the best expertise, and strict timelines for progress.
At this juncture, allowing competent private investors to take over TOR, may be the lifeline needed. This should be accompanied by stronger regulatory oversight to ensure efficiency, safety standards and fair fuel prices.
Ghana cannot perpetually continue to depend on fuel import.