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Foreign players find key partners in Ghana

Article - August 16, 2011
Two leaders in Ghana’s downstream petroleum industry, Bulk Ship & Trade and Fueltrade are efficiently providing the country with quality oil and proving to be reliable partners
In 2007, the discovery of a vast reservoir of oil off the shores of Ghana opened up a new billion dollar industry for this West African nation situated amongst other oil giants. And while the Jubilee field, with its estimated 1.5 billion barrels of crude, will make a substantial contribution towards satisfying Ghana’s oil-thirsty market, the country’s allotted 20% of the future production of 200,000 barrels per day will still leave a large chunk of the demand unquenched. Bulk Ship and its sister company Fueltrade have been operating for several years, filling in the gap.

In the 1970’s, Chris Chinebuah, CEO and co-founder of said companies, worked in a shipping agency, where he learned the ropes of oil transportation. Later, in the 1980’s, Mr. Chinebuah began representing oil majors in Ghana, such as BP, Geogas, and Petrobras. Over the following two decades, he built up solid relationships and contacts with people in Ghana and Nigeria and as far as Greece and Switzerland, so that when he and his business partner, Dzifa French Cudjoe, established Bulk Ship in the year 2000, his name was already synonymous with the Ghanaian oil trade industry.

For the first few years, Bulk Ship operated as a downstream oil trading company that transported and distributed oil procured from neighboring oil-producing nations. With the deregulation of the oil importing industry in 2005, Mr. Chinebuah and Mr. French Cudjoe saw the opportunity to separate the activities of oil trading from those of distributing and thus Fueltrade was born. 

Mr. Chinebuah cites his experience and the companies’ reputation as essential to their success. “We have very high-quality commercial practices because we always believe that it is not about the money, but the reputation of the company, that takes it forward,” he explains. “We have a host of foreign oil trade houses that know our company very well.”

The CEO is also proud of the companies’ foresight and pioneering role in the industry: Bulk Ship is the first in sub-Saharan Africa to build EU-regulation tanks on land.

“We were fortunate to acquire a parcel of land located approximately 600 meters from the Tema Oil Refinery… We bought the 15-acre piece of land for about US$5.5 million and construction of the fuel tanks and LPG mounded bullets has commenced. In the past, LPG was stored in spheres – like water tanks – but the problem with that is the volatility of the product. In Europe, EU regulations insist that any new construction of gas storage tanks must be mounded bullets. However, even though this is not required in Ghana or West Africa, we have gone one step further and Fueltrade will have mounded bullets for LPG storage, the first of its kind in this area,” says Mr. Chinebuah.

 I believe that we have what it takes to support  our partners and fulfill their objectives’

 

‘we do not compromise on quality’

 

‘Whenever there are emergencies, we are the first company that is called’

Once completed in late 2011, this will be the biggest and most diverse – and not to mention safest – tank farm in the region, with storage for gasoline, gas oil, light gasoline, and LPG.

While Bulk Ship and Fueltrade currently import LPG (recently they signed a contract with the government of Benin to import 1,000 tons of butane LPG every week), they plan to invest in gas off-take from the Jubilee field. Moreover, the CEO believes that this will be a learning experience for the company: “We will take part in bidding with our foreign trading counterparts who know the markets better than we do. This will give Bulk Ship and Fueltrade the ability to assimilate more about oil trading.”

Other plans in the pipeline include supplying the increasing number of FPSOs (floating production, storage and offloading) and offshore oilrigs with gasoil; expanding the company’s reach further into West Africa; and rehabilitating a storage depot and adding a new LPG storage facility in Takoradi in a joint venture with one of the Oil Majors. The Takoradi project will alleviate the stress on the sole LPG storage installation currently in use in Tema.

Presently, Bulk Ship and Fueltrade have joint ventures with Mercuria Energy Trading S.A. (METSA), for whom Bulk Ship & Trade is the appointed representative in Ghana, and with Geogas S.A., the world’s largest international independent LPG trader. However, the companies seek further partnerships, especially with foreign companies interested in crude oil exploration.

“Despite the above joint ventures, we are looking to expand,” notes Mr. Chinebuah. “We have focused on trading partners but would like to enter into joint ventures with users of gas and oil, such as the operators of crude oil exploration and production rigs and even the mines as they insist that the quality of oil must be of a high level. It costs them a lot to clean the fuel so we would like to do this so that we control the quality of our product… I believe that we have what it takes to support them and fulfill their objectives because we have our own tanks and can dedicate them for a sole purpose. Therefore, there is no compromise on quality.” 

It is precisely this commitment of improving quality, coupled with reliability and fairness that have made Bulk Ship and Fueltrade the trusted partners of the government and other entities. Shortly before President Obama’s visit to Ghana, there was a shortage of fuel. With the assistance of the Deputy Minister of Energy, Fueltrade was able to arrange a shipload of product to Tema and discharge the vessel, thus clearing the problem literally in the nick of time.

Mr. Chinebuah and Mr. French Cudjoe’s companies are also contributing to the repair of the LPG pipeline, by making a contribution of materials and funds for the 350 meter section that is most exposed to seawater.

“Whenever there are emergencies, we are the first company that is called,” boasts the CEO.

Under the current legislature, i.e. local Ghanaian content, foreign companies wishing to participate in the Ghanaian oil and gas industry must team up with a local partner. With their experience, expertise, trust, infrastructure, and technology, Bulk Ship and Fueltrade are well positioned to offer excellent opportunities to foreign operators seeking to work in Ghana.

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