Black Star, Black Gold: The Discovery of Substantial Oil Reserves in Ghanaian Waters Has Transformed the Country's Economic Trajectory: The Black Gold Provides the Prospect of Paying Down Debt, Investing in Infrastructure and Achieving Sustainable Middle-Income Stephen Williams Reports

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When the final analysis for 2011 is completed, the IMF confidently forecasts that Ghana's growth will record a 13% upturn, the highest in sub-Saharan revenues from the offshore Jubilee Field's production begin to flow, "Economic growth [will be] boosted by strong activity in other sectors of the economy. Inflation is now firmly in single digits, and the Ghanaian cedi has remained broadly stable against the dollar, underpinned by an improved external position, "Christina Daseking reported in September this year, after leading an IMF research team to Accra.

Daseking went on to say: "A preliminary assessment of fiscal performance during the first half of the year shows strong improvements in tax revenues over the same period in 2010. It suggests that full-year fiscal targets are achievable with continued control over expenditures. The government has also cleared a sizeable part of its previous arrears, which had contributed to high non-performing loans in the banking sector ... Discussions with the Bank of Ghana focused on the challenges of maintaining low inflation, in the context of sizeable foreign currency inflows [ie oil revenues]. The mission encouraged the Bank of Ghana to further build up its foreign reserve buffer, while carefully managing the impact on domestic liquidity and allowing some adjustments in the exchange rate in response to market forces."

In fact, the Ghanaian economy has, according to GDP indicators, posted a reasonably strong performance since the turn of the millennium, with annual growth rates rising from 4.2% in 2001 to 7.3% in 2008. It dipped in 2009 to 4.7% as the global economic crises took its toll, but in 2010 the economy recovered to achieve a 5.9% growth rate and production and Ghana's oil, discovered in 2007, began to flow in December. This was an industry record - 40 months from the discovery of oil to production of crude. Production from Jubilee stood at 16.7m barrels between January and September this year.

The story does not end there. In October 2011, the Jubilee Field operator, Tullow Oil Ghana, signed a one-year contract with Seadrill, to secure its ultra-deepwater semi-submersible rig, West Leo, for operations in its DeepwaterTano Block, offshore Ghana.

The West Leo is being constructed at Jurong Shipyard in Singapore, the same shipyard where the floating, production, storage and offloading vessel Kwame Nkrumah (now lifting oil in the Jubilee Field) was also built. West Leo is scheduled to be delivered to the owners in January 2012 and will sail to Ghana to drill development wells in the Deepwater Tano Block, where the Tweneboa and Enyera discoveries are expected to be developed. Tullow also operates the Deepwater Tano licence and holds a 49.95% stake alongside partners Kosmo Energy and Anadarko Petroleum, each with 18%, Sabre Oil & Gas holding 4.05% and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) holding 10%.

It is anticipated that Tweneboa and Enyera will be developed and produced together. After a successful appraisal of Enyenra, Tullow commented: "This excellent result demonstrates that we are close to declaring the Enyenra and Tweneboa development as 'commercial'. Although the ultimate extent of the fields are yet to be fully determined, confirmation of this up-dip extension and long oil column in Enyenra is very encouraging." Tullow expects to commence working with West Leo in April 2012 and it is predicted that Ghana will be West Africa's third-largest oil producer after Nigeria and Angola. Ghana's total oil reserves are estimated to be at least 1.25bn barrels.

And Tullow is being joined in Ghana by other companies. Dr Oteng-Adjei, Ghana's Minister of Energy, reports that there are 13 different petroleum operations currently being undertaken along the country's shoreline at different stages of exploration and development. Nigerian-based Sahara Energy Fields and Hess Ghana/ Rockfield, for example, are seeking exploration and production rights over blocks offshore adjacent to the West Keta block and East Cape Three Points of the Jubilee offshore field. …