Shell is pushing for a more active role in Ghana’s vast new oil fields, which may hold over 500 million barrels of oil. With a legacy of turmoil in Nigeria crippling its supply, Shell was desperate to impress at an industry summit this week before Ghana’s Vice President Mahama and the Director of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, both key players in what is becoming West Africa’s newest oil frontier.
As Ghana’s Daily Graphic reports:
The Chief Economist of Shell Trading, Mr Roberto Siebert, told the Daily Graphic at the Oil and Gas Summit in Accra that “we have the expertise in trading, environmental management, exporting and importing and diversity in the contest of strong business principles”, adding that “Shell will also ensure that Ghana benefits from the perspective of health, safety and environment”.
Mr Siebert said Shell had a global spread and it was respected wherever it found itself because of its commitment to ensuring strong business principles that do not only ensure the benefit of the company, but also the countries in which it operated.
For evidence of Shell’s lack of ‘commitment to business principles’, Ghanaians may look to Nigeria, where Shell and other oil companies have effectively lost their ‘social license’ to operate in the Niger Delta region. Decades of routine gas flaring and oil spills have polluted the environment, destroyed livelihoods and in many areas have contributed to a total break down of community relations.
The company’s excessive reliance upon heavily armed government security forces has also led to grave human rights abuses. For many locals, Shell is the object of fear and anger, but not respect.
Shell is a late arrival in the rush for Ghana’s oil. Other oil majors such as Exxon Mobil have already had their attempt to gain a foothold in the country’s prized Jubilee Field frustrated by a government seeking a deal on better terms. It remains to be seen whether the Ghanaian government and civil society will draw lessons from the Nigerian experience and block Shell’s advances before it becomes too late.