Last year alone, he said, the Petroleum Commission reported 595 intrusions in the established safety zone offshore, thereby posing serious risks to the fishermen themselves and the offshore installations as well.
The fishermen, according to reports, travelled to the oilfields and spent days fishing in the restricted areas around the installations.
The minister explained that the issue came up in the past and a lot of work was done to ensure that it was resolved but the current situation was worrisome to the ministry and industry players.
He said the establishment of an operational office for the Petroleum Commission in the Western Region was not only important but also strategic and a fulfilment of the requirements of the Petroleum Commission Act, 2011 (Act 821), which enjoins it to establish an operational office in any region where oil is found in commercial quantities.
The region, Mr Buah indicated, had been receiving a lot of attention from international oil companies and supporting industry players, since majority of upstream petroleum activities were situated offshore.
He gave an assurance that the Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) integrated oil and gas project was progressing steadily, since construction of a third FPSO in Singapore and work on the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah on the Jubilee Field were on course.
Oil production from the OCTP project is expected to start in 2017 and peak at about 40,000 barrels per day in 2019, while gas production is expected to start in 2018.
“We believe that the work that has been done by the GNPC in the Volta Basin will add new frontiers to our petroleum exploration efforts. The GNPC is leading the effort of seismic data acquisition in the onshore basin which, we are confident, has significant prospects of hydrocarbon reserves,” he added.
New petroleum hub
According to Mr Buah, the focus of the government is to make the country, particularly the Western Region, the hub of petroleum activities in the West African sub-region.
“This is demonstrated by the relocation of regional offices of many international oil and service companies to Ghana. Companies such as ENI, Expro, Schlumberger and Halliburton are running their regional offices from Ghana,” he said.
He also said the numerous oil and gas projects and infrastructural development that the region was witnessing were the manifestation of the government’s vision of creating a new growth pole for the country.
The acting Chief Executive of the Petroleum Commission, Mr Theophanous Ahwireng, said the office would be resourced to render various services to stakeholders.
In line with its core mandate of ensuring the efficient utilisation of petroleum resources, the Petroleum Commission, he said, sought to work with all operators and service companies (both foreign and local) to ensure that petroleum resources were produced and utilised efficiently, with the least impact on the environment.
Mr Ahwireng said over the last year, the upstream petroleum industry had experienced a drastic market downturn with the decline in crude oil prices and that was impacting the operations of companies in the sector.
“This is a clear indication that there is the urgent need for all of us to change the way we do our business. The epoch of business, as usual, is over,” he said.
He reminded industry players, be they operators, service companies or regulators, to ensure cost effectiveness and improve the quality of their service delivery.