February 19, 2008 / 4:39 PM / 11 years ago

West African gas pipeline delayed till April-MD

ACCRA, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The startup of a West African gas pipeline operated by Chevron Corp. (CVX.N) has been delayed by over three months due to repairs on supply pipes in Nigeria but first gas should flow by April, its director said on Tuesday.

The 678 km (420 mile) pipeline will transport natural gas from Nigeria’s Niger Delta to Benin, Togo and Ghana to help ease chronic power shortages around West Africa, seen as a major hindrance to development in the region.

The first gas had been expected to flow through the pipeline to Ghana’s western port of Takoradi on Dec. 23 but was delayed after leaks were detected in supply pipelines in Nigeria which needed cleaning and repair work.

The $620 million West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) starts at the Itoki terminal in southeastern Nigeria and heads eastward across Benin and Togo to reach Takoradi in western Ghana.

Jack Derickson, Managing Director of the West African Pipeline Company (WAPCo), said the pipeline had been ready since December but the state-owned Nigeria Gas Company (NGC) was still repairing its own system from Warri in the Niger Delta to Itoki.

“The current hold-up is repair of the NGC system several hundred miles upstream of WAGP. Our understanding is those repairs are nearly complete,” Derickson told Reuters, adding gas was likely to flow by April.

“I can assure you that they (the Nigerians) are motivated to accomplish that job in good time due to the ongoing gas shortage and power crisis in Nigeria.”

Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company, owns a 36.7 percent stake in WAPCo.

Other shareholders include the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC), Shell Overseas Holding Co (RDSa.L), Ghana’s Takoradi Power Co. Ltd., Societe Togolaise de Gaz and Societe Beninoise de Gaz.

Ghanaian President John Kufuor, whose country is still recovering from a crippling year-long energy crisis which struck in August 2006, has hailed the pipeline as a major step in his government’s strategy to improve energy supply.

Ghana is reliant on hydroelectric power for most of its needs, and was hard-hit by a prolonged drought in 2006.

Its main electricity utility, the Volta River Authority, says gas from the pipeline should help fire its thermal power stations to produce a total 550 megawatts. (Editing by Daniel Flynn)

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