Ordinarily, the discovery a major oil field within a country’s borders would be cause for national celebration. In Ghana, it musters mixed emotions.
The Associated Press reported Monday that English oil exploration firm Tullow Oil PLC had confirmed the existence of a second large offshore oil field near the coastline of Ghana.
When the other major oil field, the Jubilee Field, was discovered in 2007, it caused then-President John Kufuor to declare that Ghana had oil reserves of 3 billion barrels and call its future “very bright indeed.”
But in the nearly three years that have elapsed since that declaration, commercial quantities of crude have yet to be extracted.
Forgive the Ghanaians for not rushing to drill.
As the AP article notes: “Ghana has explored possible fields with some trepidation after seeing what’s happened to nearby Nigeria, an oil-rich nation mired in endemic corruption and pollution over its 50 years of production.”
Indeed, allegations of corruption are already swirling around companies involved with the Jubilee Field. The U.S. closed a bribery investigation into Dallas-based Kosmos Energy LLC in May, a few months before the oil exploration company’s $4 billion deal to sell its stake in the Jubilee field to Exxon Mobile Corp. collapsed.
Allegations that Kosmos may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act were brought to U.S. authorities by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owns a 23.5 percent stake in the Jubilee Field, according to the May 12 letter from DOJ to Kosmos obtained by Bloomberg News.
Anadarko, based in The Woodlands, Texas, reported possible bribery “in connection with securing licensing, exploration and production agreements relating to petroleum blocks located in the territorial waters of the Republic of Ghana,” Charles Duross, a supervisor in the Justice Department’s criminal division, wrote in the letter obtained by Bloomberg.
Anadarko leveled similar allegations against EO Group, which owns a 1.75 percent stake in Jubilee. The DOJ also declined to pursue charges related to EO Group, which is allied with the opposition New Patriotic Party. The state-owned petroleum corporation is allied with the National Democratic Congress, the party of Ghana President John Evans Atta Mills.
While the DOJ declined to pursue the case related to Kosmos’s share in the field, Ghana is continuing its own criminal inquiry. Ghana Attorney General Betty Mould-Iddrisu told Bloomberg in an interview.
“It’s live, it’s ongoing,” Mould-Iddrisu told the newswire, although she declined to name targets or be specific about the allegations.