Fairly a nascent industry in Ghana, the gas sector is rapidly evolving to become a veritable necessity in economic life. Yet, public knowledge of the commodity, its relevance, processes, and the institution behind it remain short of desired understanding.
Realization dawned on several existing challenges: that there is a wide gap between academia and the overall oil and gas industry, specifically the gas industry. It was, thus, very necessary that a vehicle be set up that could sufficiently be used to close the gap. That there is a need to prepare young people and build their capacity to take over the industry, which means scouting for the best to be prepared and trained for the future.
Media reporting on the gas sector show lapses in understanding and relation to topical subjects regarding the sector. “Gas is very new to us as a country and so the understanding may not have been always there.
So we realized that we have to partner with the media as well to help educate them about the gas industry, to also help them with the gas reporting,” says Augustina Osei Asare, Head of Government Relations at the Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC).
As the formal state agency responsible for coordinating all aspects of the gas value chain in the country, Ghana Gas, as GNGC is widely known, did identify the present need to educate the general public about the use of gas, the health and safety aspects of it, what the company does with the indigenous gas produced in-country, and what exactly the purpose of the Ghana Gas is. To meet these needs, the tertiary quiz competition dubbed ‘Gas Challenge’ was birthed in 2019.
“The Government Relations Department of Ghana Gas sat down and we decided that based on these objectives, the vehicle that we can use is the Gas Challenge concept because in educating people you don’t want to make it boring, it has to be fun. While people are having fun, it is usually easier to process information,” she explains.
And that’s how the concept came about to develop Gas Challenge to engage students of university institutions that offer oil and gas-related courses. After the first edition, however, interest in the contest seemed to have gone beyond the energy-focused institutions, with non-oil and gas schools, expressing the desire to participate.
Gas Challenge in its initial year featured the Stakeholders’ Edition, which saw regulators of the energy sector, the media, and Civil Society Organisations including institutions like the Public Interest Accountability Committee (PIAC), KITE, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), Graphic Corporation, and the Ministry of Energy in competition. Ministry of Energy won that edition.
Chairperson of the Gas Challenge Committee, Augustina Osei-Asare says the entire company has been overwhelmed by the patronage so far from the universities, “because we have been around for just two years, unlike the Science and Maths Quiz that has been there since the 1990s. But you can see that people are extremely enthusiastic about it and they want to be associated with the brand.”
Organized by the Ghana National Gas Company under the auspices of the Ministries of Energy, Information and Education and supported by PIAC, the first competition had nine schools participating: the University of Ghana, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Takoradi Technical University, Regional Maritime University, Ghana Communication Technology University, University of Cape Coast, All Nations University, and the University of Energy & Natural Resources. UMaT emerged winners of the first edition.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Gas Challenge competition which could not happen in 2020 took place this year, which grand finale happened on November 30 at the University for Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA). It involved the same set of universities in participation.
And like the previous edition, the University of Ghana (UG), Team Propane – Zone 1; KNUST, Team Lean Gas – Zone 2; UMaT, Team Condensates – Zone 3 made it to the final contest, after winning in the various zonal competitions. At the end of the finale, the defending champions retained the trophy.
The event was well attended by Dr. Ben K.D. Asante, CEO of the Ghana National Gas Company, representatives from the Ministries of Energy, Education, Information, Ghana National Fire Service, Ghana Police Service, National Youth Authority, Ghana Journalists Association, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Gaming Commission, Ghana Energy Awards, and a host of others.
Performing to rousing support, loud cheers from schoolmates and coaches, and chants of the slogan: “Knowledge is Power, Gas is Power” the participants went through five rounds of open-ended, calculations, and multiple choice questions on the gas value chain; topics span policy, regulations, downstream, mid and upstream operations, as well as the operations of relevant stakeholders in the gas industry. Questions were drawn from study guides given to all participating institutions.
A close call, the contest concluded with UMaT finishing first with 61points to carry the day, followed closely by KNUST with 58 points, and UG coming in third place with 44 points.
“This year, we had a quality contest, contestants showed enthusiasm and understanding of the gas sector,” says Quiz Mistress, Emmanuella Kwao-Boateng, at the end of the show. She added that there had been more active participation than previously with very close markings between the schools. The contest, she stressed, had exposed energetic young people with the zeal to take on the gas sector fully to the next level.
Ghana Gas also has plans to do the ‘Innovative Challenge’ aside from the Quiz competition. The concept is to throw in possible challenges identified in the industry to the universities to find solutions to that particular problem.
For instance, teething problems include financing alternatives for investments in infrastructure to enable access to the country’s natural resources. Though this was planned for this year, technical problems resulting from Covid prevented its realization.
Stakeholders have commended the program as a great initiative but called for more publicity, and increased collaboration with the media, oil companies, and other players in the energy sector in Ghana to spread accurate information on the gas industry.
The Gas Challenge platform is to correct certain misconceptions regarding gas utilization and related issues in the country. It is scheduled to run every year.