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Ghana Oil: Optimism Struggles with Reality

We don’t really need Brad Pitt’s latest documentary film production on Ghana and oil industry greed to tell us that Ghana is in a bit of trouble, coming down from the boundless optimism fueled by the first major oil discovery in 2007. Now the government and foreign oil companies are going to have to pay closer attention to the details because gone are the days when African companies bow quietly to the “resource curse”. Oil companies will have to adapt along with them because no one wants another Nigeria (ask Shell).

That said, the film is about to bring a lot more attention to Ghana—enough to make investors look a little closer at what they’re getting into here. So we’ll lay it out for you in the simplest way:

•    Commercial production began three years ago, but has fallen short of the 120,000 bpd target planned for 2012. Since production began in the prolific Jubilee oil field, the partners have produced over 83 million barrels of oil, but by the end of last year had only managed to get daily production up to 110,000 bpd--a year late and 10,000 bpd short of the target. Investors are taking notice, and so are government officials. (Producers blame sand contamination in the flow lines going to the oil storage facility).

•    Jobs have been created for Ghanaians, which is in turn helping to improve the country’s economic picture, but state revenues are lower than some…

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