Ghana’s quest to serve as a hub for petroleum products in the sub-region received a major boost following the revival of the Bolgatanga Depot of the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited, BOST.
The facility, which has a capacity to hold about 46.5m litres of petroleum products, has been dormant since 2018 largely due to a defect in the 261km fuel pipeline linking the depot from Buipe, Savannah Region – which receives products from Accra via the Volta Lake through the Akosombo depot.
Speaking ahead of the commencement of operations of the Bolga facility, Managing Director of BOST, Mr. Edwin Nii Obodai Provencal, said the facility is strategically positioned to serve the fuel needs of countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and the rest of the landlocked countries.
“In line with our growth strategy, this asset in Bolga is positioned to be the export hub for the nation in terms of connecting the landlocked countries to the port with respect to the supply of fuel. The re-opening of Bolga fortunately comes at the right time to take advantage of the new AfCFTA [African Continental Free Trade Area] trade protocols. This by no small measure will boost our export capacity with additional contribution to our bottom line,” he stated.
Over the past three years that the Bolga Depot had remained non-functional, the Sahelian countries that imported finished fuel products from Ghana relied on Bulk Road Vehicles (BRVs), popularly known as fuel tankers, to haul petroleum products from Tema. This mode of transport comes with huge road maintenance costs, safety risks and other related challenges.
These vehicles typically have the capacity of holding about 55,000 litres of petroleum products – traversing hundreds of kilometres to access these finished products. The revival of the Bolga Depot will allow these tankers to draw fuel from the facility, cutting down distance travelled on the roads and saving the nation a lot of cost. The move is also expected to reduce the carnage on the roads.
Commenting on the significance of the revival of the depot, Board Chair of BOST Mr. Ekow Hackman stated that “with this development, we can see that the spine of the company, which starts at the Accra Plains Depot and goes through to Akosombo by barge to Buipe through Savelugu and finally to Bolgatanga, is complete.”
BOST, which was established in 1993, is tasked with building strategic reserve stocks of fuel to meet a minimum of six weeks of national consumption in the short and medium term and to increase the stock level to 12 weeks in the long term.
In order to fulfill its mandate, BOST developed a network of storage and distribution infrastructure throughout the country. The company currently has six depots nationwide.
These are located in the Accra Plains, Mami Water, Akosombo, Kumasi, Buipe and Bolgatanga. Pipelines link the Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) to the Accra Plains Depot, which in turn is linked to the Mami Water Depot, Volta Region, and ends at the Akosombo Depot in the Eastern Region.
Another pipeline links the Buipe Depot, Savannah Region, to the Bolgatanga Depot in the Upper East Region. For petroleum products to reach the northern parts of the country, it is conveyed by pipeline from the Tema Oil Refinery through the Accra Plains Depot and Mami Water to Akosombo, where it is loaded onto river barges to Buipe en route to Bolga. The Savelugu Booster Station ensures that the pressure is increased midway as products are pumped along the pipeline to Bolgatanga from Buipe.
Over the last six to seven years, key components in the BOST infrastructure layout were out of shape and in need of repairs. The company, which earns its income from moving products as well as a levy – BOST margin – on petroleum products sold to the public, was unable to fix the defects due to what its MD, Mr. Provencal, said was lack of funds.
In making a case for an increase in the BOST margin – a flat rate of GH¢0.03 charged on every litre of petroleum product sold in the country – Mr. Provencal explained that the amount is woefully inadequate, hence the request to increase it to GH¢0.12 to allow the company the ability to bring some of its key projects back on stream.
Last year, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) gave its approval for the BOST margin to be increased to GH¢0.06 per litre. Though lower than the request, it is a development that Mr. Provencal believes has returned BOST to a path of growth where key assets which have broken down over the years are being restored.
“What the increment in the BOST margin has done to our strategy, which is two-fold, is that we are now going to sweat this asset to achieve our operational efficiency. This facility will contribute to our revenue-earning assets. This will also help boost the morale of the staff here as well as contribute to our fortunes in future,” he said.
After years of inactivity, BOST had to spend nearly US$2m to revive the Bolgatanga Depot. This cost includes the repair of the 261km Buipe-Bolga pipeline, repair works on some of the tanks as well as office space for Bulk Distribution Companies (BDCs).
According to Mr. Provencal, the depot is looking at exporting at least GH¢50m of finished petroleum products this year. Beyond the immediate gains from reviving the facility, Chukwuemeka Aniebonam, Depot Manager, said the facility will attract a number of business activities.
He expressed appreciation to the board, management and staff of BOST for their immense support, without which this and other milestones would not have been achieved. He also expressed confidence in the staff of the facility and reminded them that having received the relevant training, he believed they would deliver on their mandate despite the years of inactivity. The workers, too, stated they would give their all to make the Depot a success story.
A team from BOST Head Office led by its Board Chair, Mr. Ekow Hackman (third from left), and assisted by Mr. Edwin Provencal (extreme left), MD, visited the facility ahead of its operationalisation.