Leaders in Ghana, the U.S. government and the Center for Energy Economics are working to help prepare the country for the coming oil boom.

Leaders in Ghana, the U.S. government and the Center for Energy Economics are working to help prepare the country for the coming oil boom.

The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Energy Economics (CEE), at the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will assess the state of the oil and gas sector in the west African country of Ghana.

The assessment will act as a map for developing the infrastructure and expertise to most effectively manage Ghana’s emerging oil and gas industry. The final report, to be completed in early 2010, will also make recommendations to USAID and other key international donors to help plan an integrated, coordinated energy assistance program for Ghana. The assessment kicks off Nov. 9 when the survey team arrives in Accra, Ghana.

Ghana is preparing to reap a windfall from a major new oil discovery off its shores in the Atlantic Ocean. The country, traditionally a net importer of oil and gas, does not yet have the infrastructure and expertise to manage the coming oil boom. Leaders in Ghana, the U.S. government and other international organizations are working to help prepare the country for its emerging role as a large oil and natural gas producer and potential new exporter.

The CEE team will survey and evaluate the state of the country’s workforce, including education and training needs and capacity; government institutions, including best practices and human resource requirements for oil and gas sector oversight and production revenue management; and stakeholders, including affected communities, and news media.

“Our goal is to help prepare Ghanaians for the proper management of their oil sector,” said Michelle Michot Foss, director of the CEE. The CEE is a center within the Bureau of Economic Geology, itself a research unit within the Jackson School of Geosciences.

In 2007, independent petroleum exploration companies announced the first major oil discovery in the history of Ghana. The Jubilee field in deep Atlantic waters holds the promise of turning the country into a net exporter of oil for the first time and offers the prospect for boosting economic development. Some experts expect the oil to begin flowing as early as late 2010.

“The CEE team has decades of experience in the oil and gas extractive industries,” said Foss, “but this is our first opportunity to directly assist a developing nation that has international recognition for good governance as it becomes an important new producer.”

Foss said there is the potential for partnerships among The University of Texas at Austin and Ghanaian universities to improve workforce training for the oil and gas industry. The long relationship between The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Trinidad & Tobago is a much discussed model for how educational partnerships might evolve. Other Texas programs of excellence, including Texas A&M University’s Offshore Technology Research Center, will be explored as well. A broad network including universities and training and human resource managers from both operating and oil service companies is being established for the assessment and post-assessment implementation.

The needs assessment is sponsored by USAID. Other assessment team members include The University of Texas at Austin’s Petroleum Extension Service, which develops and delivers oil and gas workforce training; Kumasi Institute of Technology and Environment, a Ghanaian non-profit development organization and main local partner for CEE’s work in Ghana since 2004; and Terra Group, which specializes in stakeholder and civil society engagement. The CEE team will be interacting with USAID and U.S. Department of State officers, the U.S. Minerals Management Service and the U.S. Commercial Service as the assessment proceeds.

For more information about research at the Jackson School, contact J.B. Bird at jbird@jsg.utexas.edu, 512-232-9623.