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18.10.2008 Feature Article

Guarding Against The Stealing Of Ghana's Oil

Who is the thief, and who the watchmanWho is the thief, and who the watchman

On June 18 2007 the Ghana News Agency reported: Kosmos Energy; Anadarko Petroleum and Tullow Ghana Limited, consortium engaged in oil exploration, on Monday simultaneously announced the discovery of oil in commercial quantities west of Cape Three Points, offshore Republic of Ghana.

Kosmos made the announcement in Accra, while Tullow and Anadarko made theirs in London and New York, respectively.

Mr James C. Mussleman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kosmos Energy, an American Oil Exploration Company, told President John Agyekum Kufuor at the Castle, Osu: "We are pleased that the first well in our multi-well West Africa exploration drilling programme is a success."

The high quality oil was struck 40 miles deep into the sea in the west of Cape Three Points, near Axim,

Mr Mussleman did not give figures of the exact quantity in the reserve, discovered after drilling 312 feet of the seabed, as they were still engaged in the process of developing the natural resource.

He said Kosmos, which has signed a seven-year exploration agreement with Ghana was looking forward to working with the Government and people of the country to develop the resource.

Mr Mussleman said he was aware of the high expectations of Ghanaians and asked that they should give the Company time to carry out the operation.

President Kufuor expressed appreciation to God about the discovery and said the news should embolden and encourage all Ghanaians to be optimistic about the country's future as the prospects were bright.

He challenged Kosmos the very Company that found oil in Equatorial Guinea and after the discovery was able to extract the resource in no time, to break its own record by moving quickly to develop Ghana's reserve to make the country, which has been grappling with energy problems to become an oil producer.

"We pray that the Company would be successful so that our country would not become a beggar in the energy sector anymore."

The Government, he said, has since 2001 been making efforts to address the problem of energy and that consistent with this vision, the Board of Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), which was then a general purposes entity was reconstituted.

President Kufuor said the discovery was a vindication of the good decision of ensuring that the GNPC concentrated on its core business operation.

In London, Mr Aiden Heavey, Chief Executive Officer of Tullow said: "The discovery of oil in the Mahogany Well-1 represents a major event for the Republic of Ghana and for Tullow. Based on the evidence to date, ultimate resources are likely to be materially in excess of previous estimates."

Mr Heavey put the present estimates at between 300 million barrels and 400 million barrels.

In New York Mr Bob Daniels, Anadarko's, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Exploration, said: "This is an exciting start to our 2007 exploration programme offshore West Africa."

He said to date the well has been drilled to a depth of approximately 12,083 feet and is planned to reach a total depth of 13,780 feet, adding that once the well reached the target depth it would be suspended for evaluation and appraisal.

Kosmos Energy, the block operator and Anadarko, technical operator, hold 30.875 per cent of the shares each; Tullow has 22.896 per cent; Sabre Oil and Gas Limited has 1.854 per cent and E.O. Group, a Ghanaian oil and gas company, holds 3.5 per cent of the shares in the Block.

The Minister of Energy, Mr Joseph Adda on Sunday led a team from Kosmos; GNPC and Journalists to the oilrig at deep sea, near Cape Three Points to ascertain the progress being made after three weeks of exploration.

There are 126 crewmembers including 16 Ghanaians on board the USA Bedford Dolphin Drilling Ship undertaking the exploration exercise.

Mr Adda and his entourage returned from the rig with a sample of the oil in a bottle as evidence. Subsequent Developments

Subsequently, more finds were announced and Ghana would be producing more than 120,000 barrels of oil daily in a couple of years' time.

It is in the light of this that this Writer would like to alert those, who would be engaged in the industry to do their utmost to ensure that Ghana is not short-changed since the world oil industry, unfortunately, is characterised by a lot of underhand dealings.

This Writer has taken the liberty to reproduce an instance that he came across while surfing the Internet, since eternal vigilance is the price to pay if Ghana were to avoid being cheated as she bestrode the oil industry as a producer and consumer. The United States Experience

CBS News reported: " This is the story of a blood feud, a battle between brothers. As we told you when we first reported this story last November, the Koch family of Wichita, Kansas is among the richest in the United States, worth billions of dollars. Their oil company, Koch Industries, is bigger than Intel, Dupont or Prudential Insurance, and they own it lock stock and barrel. The trouble is a former employee says the brother who controls the company grew rich through fraud and theft, stealing from the taxpayers of the United States.

"Unfortunately, for Koch Industries, that disgruntled former employee was Bill Koch, one of the Koch brothers. Blood and oil has destroyed more than one American family. The question is: Was Bill Koch a renegade out to ruin his brother, or did Koch industries really operate the way he says? Scott Pelley reports.

"Koch says that Koch Industries engaged in "(o)rganized crime. And management driven from the top down."

"'It was - was my family company. I was out of it,' he says. 'But that's what appalled me so much... I did not want my family, my legacy, my father's legacy to be based upon organized crime.'

" When Bill Koch's father, Fred Koch, died in 1967, he passed to his sons both the oil company he created and a bit of wisdom - stand up for each other. They took the company - not the advice.

"For the Koch family, the fight began in 1980. Bill tried to take control of the Company, he failed and was forced out by his older brother, Charles - Koch's Chief Executive Officer. Koch Industries told 60 Minutes II that Bill "has clearly decided to destroy what he cannot control." There is no doubt Bill Koch is a man driven by obsessions. In 1992, with little experience in sailing, he simply decided to win America's Cup. He spent millions and did. He's used the same determination in suing his brothers for nearly 20 years.

"'I'll tell you what I'm out to get,' says Bill. 'It's not to get Charles. He's going to get himself. The old saying is you're not punished for your sins but by your sins.'

"One might think this is just another wealthy American family torn apart by greed and jealousy. But there's more. Bill Koch set out to prove his father's company amassed enormous wealth through fraud.

"Bill Koch says that his brother Charles made a fortune stealing oil. Much of it from beneath Indian reservations and federal lands - places like national forests. Oil under federal lands belongs to the public. Koch Industries was the middleman - buying oil from the government at the well - then selling it to refineries. Bill Koch says that the company took more oil than it paid for by cheating on measurements.

"A gauger measures the volume and the quality of the oil that his company is buying. The buyer leaves his measurements behind on what's called a "run ticket." It's an IOU to the well owner.

"'What Koch was doing was taking all these measurements and then falsifying them on the run sheets,' says Bill Koch. 'If the dipstick measured five feet 10 inches and one half inch, they would write down five feet nine and one half inches.'

"That may not sound like much, but Bill Koch says that it added up. 'Well, that was the beauty of the scheme. Because if they're buying oil from 50,000 different people, and they're stealing two barrels from each person. What does that add up to? One year, their data showed they stole a million and a half barrels of oil.'

" Bill Koch filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that much of the oil collected by Koch Industries was stolen from federal lands. At the trial, 50 former Koch gaugers testified against the company, some in video depositions. They said Koch employees had a name for cheating on the measurements.

"'We in the company referred to it as the "Koch Method" because it was a system for cheating the producer out of oil,' said one of these gaugers, Mark Wilson.

"'I believe that what I was stealing oil and I don't feel good about it,' said another, James Jurgens.

"'You were expected to get out there and get this oil for them. And - and not be short. And the only way to not be short is to steal oil,' says Phil DuBose. He should know. Before he was laid off, he had spent 27 years at Koch Industries. He rose to become the manager of all the Koch gaugers buying oil in four states.

"'Nobody ever got in their way. And it was just a license to print money,' says DuBose.

"Charles Koch, head of the company, testified that his gaugers weren't stealing, they were making adjustments to compensate for irregularities like sludge or water in the tank.

"'There's always a problem of accuracy in the oil field in measurement,' says Charles Koch.

"The company used the Koch method with virtually all its customers. In the 1980's alone, Koch records show those so-called adjustments brought the company 300 million gallons of oil it never paid for. And it was pure profit.

"Bill Koch says that profits from that oil were a minimum of $230 million.

"60 Minutes II wanted to hear what Koch executivs had to say about the oil theft. For well over a year, in a series of meetings, phone calls and letters, we requested interviews but the company has declined. One of the people Koch Industries urged us to talk to is Charles Tillman, chief of the Osage Indian tribe in Oklahoma - one of Koch's customers.

"'Koch has been taking our oil and - and been fair about it. Until somebody proves different, then I'll stand upon their record and what they've - how they've operated here in the Osage,' says Tillman.

"In a written statement, Koch blames its problems on Bill Koch - calling him a 'disgruntled family member' who has waged a 'personal vendetta through lawsuits and the media against his brothers' company.'

"But in December 1999, the jury found that Koch Industries did steal oil from the public and lied about its purchases - 24 thousand times. The oil theft conviction was a heavy blow, but the troubles of Koch Industries don't stop there. If the company was fattening its bottom line through theft - there is also evidence Koch was pinching pennies on safety and environmental protection - cutting costs with disastrous results.

"Former EPA administrator Carol Browner announced in 2000 that she was hitting Koch Industries with the largest civil penalty in the history of the federal Clean Water Act: a $30 million fine.

"She said, Koch Industries spilled over 3 million gallons of crude oil in six states.

"Koch pipelines make up the largest oil and gas network in the nation. The EPA complaint targeted more than 300 oil spills, some poisoning fisheries and drinking water.

"In a statement, Koch Industries claims that it has spent a billion dollars on environmental improvements and reduced leaks by 96 percent. The company urged us to look at its record at the federal Office of Pipeline Safety. We did and discovered that Koch's records at OPS look good. But we also found that OPS doesn't cover more than half of Koch's lines - including the lines that leaked.

"'They don't care for any loss of human life. Like I said, it was the buck that counted for them,' says Danny Smalley. He had the extreme misfortune of living near a Koch Industries underground pipeline that ran through Texas.

" In August, 1996, Smalley was home with his daughter Danielle and her friend Jason Stone. Danielle was packing to leave for school the next day - the first person in her family to go to college.

"She and Jason started smelling gas. It was butane, pouring from a corroded Koch Industries high-pressure pipeline, 200 yards from their home. Jason and Danielle set out in a pickup truck to find help. But their truck set off the butane, and caused an explosion.

"Danny Smalley filed suit against Koch Industries. His attorney, Ted Lyon, says the investigation exposed a pattern of negligence and cover up involving the pipeline known as Sterling One. Lyon describes the pipeline as like 'Swiss Cheese'.

"Koch is required by law to ensure that its vast pipeline system is protected from corrosion in two ways. The pipe must be wrapped in a protective coating. And, once in the ground, an electrical current is applied all along the pipeline - a technique that inhibits corrosion.

"'If you don't have the current and you don't have coating, you have a big problem. And that's what happened in this case. And the sad thing about it is, they knew it,' says Lyon.

"Federal investigators blamed the explosion on Koch's failure to adequately protect the line. Koch industries told us the fatal explosion is the only incident of its kind in the company's history. Still, in 1999, a jury found Koch Industries guilty of negligence and malice.

"'They admitted to me if they had done things the way they should have, my child and Jason would still be alive,' says Danny Smalley.

"'They said, 'We're sorry Mr. Smalley, that your child lost her life and Jason lost his life.' Sorry doesn't get it. They're not sorry. The only thing they looked at was the bottom dollar. How much money would they lose if they shut the pipeline down? They didn't care, all they wanted was the money.'

"'Koch Industries has a philosophy that profits are above everything else,' says Bill Koch.

August 2001 Update

"In May, 2001, Bill Koch and Koch Industries announced a legal settlement of all their disputes, effectively putting an end to the two-decade family feud. The settlement calls for Koch Industries to pay $25 million in penalties to the U.S. government for improperly taking more oil than it paid for from federal and Indian lands. About a third of it goes to Bill Koch or bringing the lawsuit.

"Koch industries have faced other troubles with the government since the original broadcast in November. In April, Koch's Petroleum Group was fined 20 million dollars after it released huge amounts of cancer-causing benzene from a Texas refinery and then tried to cover it up." If Gold Rusts......

The question is, if this could happen in the United States of America then one could imagine what might happen in Ghana, where regulatory institutions like the Ghana Standards Board, Environmental Protection Agency and the Ghana News Agency are not well equipped to carry out their supervisory duties?

A GNA Feature by Boakye-Dankwa Boadi

Boakye-Dankwa Boadi
Boakye-Dankwa Boadi, © 2008

This author has authored 11 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: BoakyeDankwaBoadi

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Reproduction is authorised provided the author's permission is granted.

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