West African Gas Pipeline Company Ltd – Collaborating for a Cleaner Future
We learn how WAPCo is providing not just the gas pipeline for West Africa, but a collaborative vision of the region’s future.
WAPCo is a small private company on a path to being a world-class pipeline business serving customers in the West African region. Backed by strong public and private shareholders, the company receives key stakeholder support from both global and local West African companies. As well as its shareholders, WAPCo is supported by its diverse, motivated workforce across four countries.
It is also set to play a valuable role in making a reality of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) vision for a greener energy sector.
“The strong collaborative support we get from governments across the four countries and our customers is setting us on a path to achieve success in the first phase of the ECOWAS vision for cleaner and more efficient energy across the West Africa region,” explains Greg Germani, WAPCo’s Managing Director. “The ECOWAS vision that started this effort decades ago is now beginning to look at further expanding on that vision to other countries in the region.”
In helping bring this vision to life, WAPCo has a number of unique advantages. First, there is its location, the only gas pipeline across four countries in the West African region, linking regional gas resources to growing customer demand. Then there is the competitive edge that Germani is clearly most enthusiastic about.
“WAPCo’s strong, collaborative and diverse stakeholders from both the public and private sectors work together for a vision of cleaner, reliable and efficient energy to the West African Region,” Germani says. “The West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) is honoured to host the Energy & Petroleum Resource Ministers from four countries up to twice a year to discuss the key needs for the WAGP to achieve its vision. This is a unique support for an asset and a company.”
As well as governmental support, WAPCo receives support from its shareholders Chevron, Shell, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC), and Volta River Authority (VRA, a Ghanaian power generation company).
“They provide a diverse and wide-ranging background of Subject Matter Expert support in sharing best practices and guidance on achieving our vision with regular contact throughout the year,” Germani says. “Finally, to have the greatest impact, our diverse local workforce across four countries is working collaboratively under our OneWAPCo inclusive culture, providing opportunities for local workers to develop their skills and have positive impacts on the communities they live and work in.”
A Challenging Decade
While WAPCo’s future is full of promise, the company has had to overcome serious challenges.
“The first decade of WAPCo’s operation was not easy,” Germani admits. “Thanks to the talent of our workforce and the collaborative effort of our stakeholders, we were able to navigate a very rough period for the company to come into the new decade on a much better path towards achieving our vision. We’re seeing those benefits now.”
It has faced a daunting list of challenges. The company dealt with challenges including a rupture in an offshore section of the pipeline due to an anchor being dragged across the line from a vessel hijacked by pirates.
“Following this incident, we were able to work with each of the four states to get the needed support from local navies for a protection zone around the pipeline,” Germani recalls.
WAPCo has also, tragically, seen the loss of lives among its workforce, leading a huge revamp of its Operational Excellence (OE) Management System to strengthen the company’s safety culture and safeguards.
“That has put us on a remarkable journey of over seven years and over 8 million workforce hours without a lost time due to injury or recordable incident,” Germani tells us. “It is a true testament to the commitment of our motivated and talented workforce that continues to improve upon our OE journey with the latest best practices.”
The company’s strong sense of culture and family has helped it navigate these challenges, as Germani points out, “At the heart of overcoming those challenges is what we call the OneWAPCo culture. We have only recently documented this culture to help in the onboarding of new workforce members to our family. Our OneWAPCo Family Values have always been there. It all starts with a strong safety culture built on achieving Operational Excellence, focused on protecting the safety and health of our workforce, the reliability and integrity of our assets and protecting the host communities and the environment we work and live in.”
The WAPCo Family
Of course, that family is made up of people, and finding the right people is a critical part of the WAPCo way.
“It starts with walking the talk of our OneWAPCo Family Values to create a work environment that attracts and retains a talented workforce,” Germani insists. “We are able to recruit talents across the four countries that we operate in to find the right people to meet our needs through a competitive and robust recruitment process.”
This is only the start of the journey. WAPCo has invested in a learning and development program to assess the capabilities of its workforce and match the right person to their development and training needs.
It is a constantly developing process.
“As we transition from the prior decade’s mindset of just surviving as a company to a growth mindset with new opportunities on the horizon, we are creating an environment to attract and retain top talent,” Germani says.
As well as being colleagues, the workforce is also WAPCo’s allies in helping the company support the communities it works alongside.
“From the beginning of the WAGP and WAPCo, during the construction phase of the pipeline there has been a focus on social responsibilities in the communities we live and operate in,” says Germani. “Initial efforts focused on the provision of infrastructure at rural sites where our pipeline and stations were built. Over the decade we have seen those communities grow and we have supported 54 communities and 15 municipalities as they have grown more from programs through scholarships to needy students to pursue tertiary education, vocational and technical training, medical care through annual health outreach programs, as well as opportunities for qualified persons from the communities to work at our Regulating and Metering (R&M) stations.”
WAPCo has had positive feedback from these efforts but is always looking to see how it can do better.
“This year we are kicking off an effort to look into our Corporate Social Responsibility Policy Framework to ensure alignment with the company’s core purpose and values and contribute towards the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – seventeen in total – aimed at achieving a better and more sustainable future for all people and the world by 2030,” Germani tells us.
Looking to the future, once again Germani is telling us about the importance of collaboration.
“We have a growth mindset focused on meeting the needs of our customers and stakeholders in a collaborative effort,” he explains. “We are seeing new off-takers and end-users coming on at our existing R&M stations in Cotonou, Lome and Tema, mainly for power generation, but we are hopeful to see industrial customers in the near future. Longer-term, we are participating in the feasibility studies by ECOWAS on the future phases of their vision for linking regional gas supply in West African with growing demand potentially expanding end-user customers of the WAGP to two further West African countries. A busy future for the WAGP and WAPCo is what we are planning for.”