A view of the natural gas processing plant in Atuabo, outside a village on Ghana's remote west coast, Sept. 2, 2014.
A view of the natural gas processing plant in Atuabo, outside a village on Ghana's remote west coast, Sept. 2, 2014.

ACCRA - Ghanaians are struggling with crippling 12-hour power cuts across the country. Authorities are hoping a nearly-completed gas processing plant could be the key to alleviating the country’s energy woes.

Ghanaians have been dealing with persistent power outages both in the capital Accra and in the countryside for months. The Electricity Company of Ghana recently warned it may have to resort to 24-hour power cuts.

The situation has since improved, but Ghana still has a power deficit of 400 megawatts.

The government is hopeful that a long-delayed natural gas processing plant in the village of Atuabo, in Ghana’s west, will provide needed energy to the main utility Volta River Authority, or VRA, and help the cash strapped-country save money.

Alfred Ogbamey is a spokesman for the Ghana National Gas Company.

“What Atuabo does is that once it comes on-stream and at optimum operating level, we’ll be producing enough gas which is more efficient and effective and at a much cheaper cost to the VRA for them to use to generate between 480 to 550 megawatts of electricity,” he said.

Ghana spends $3 million every day on crude oil imports for its plants. That’s cash it doesn’t have.

President John Dramani Mahama’s administration is seeking money from the International Monetary Fund to put the economy back on course after the cedi currency tumbled earlier this year, losing as much as 60 percent of its value against the dollar.

Ogbamey said gas from the Atuabo plant would cut the cost of oil imports in half.

“That means further forex savings for the country as well, and further, if you like, provision of resources that could be directed to solve either liquidity problems or problems in other sectors of the economy,” he said.

Ogbamey said Ghana’s power generation has been hampered by an unreliable supply of natural gas from Nigeria, low water levels in the country’s hydroelectric dams and maintenance work on existing plants.

The Atuabo plant is expected to start receiving gas from Ghana’s offshore Jubilee oil field next week.

“The final phase of that process will be completed by next week and the expectation as of now is that once complete it should allow gas, barring any last minute, it should allow gas to flow to the processing plant for us to do some initial tests,” said Ogbamey,

The plant is not expected to keep the lights on completely in the country, but it will be a step towards improving the power situation in West Africa’s second-largest economy.