Nigeria neighbouring countries the Niger Republic, which started commercial oil production in 2011, now exports petroleum products to Nigeria, as Egypt and Algeria lead African operations with 13 refineries.
Both countries (Egypt and Algeria) have a combined capacity of 1.4 million barrels per day, For decades, Nigeria’s three major refineries have been grounded to near-zero capacity utilisation with all of its refined fuel imported from other countries. Data exclusively obtained from the African Refiners & Distributors Association (ARA) revealed that strong refinery performance in Niger meets local fuel demand, and excess production exported to Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso.
The continental body also raised concern over the importation of dirty fuel into Africa and predicted health and environmental challenges, unless refineries upgrade to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and enable export of ‘white’ products.
While the total budgeted oil revenue for 2019 was N3.73tn, statistics from the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) showed that Nigeria spent N3trillion on 18 billion-litre imports of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
The government was said to have paid as much as N1 trillion every year to subsidise consumption, a serious foreign exchange challenge to the country.
As the country struggles to get its refineries working and to attract foreign investment to the downstream sector of the oil industry, Niger has built a single 20,000-barrel per day refinery with the configuration for the local market.
The facility is currently turning out liquefied petroleum gas, 7 per cent; gasoline, 32 per cent; and diesel, 61 per cent, to enable it to optimise stranded crude supply.
At a time politics has continued to becloud Nigeria’s turnaround maintenance in refineries, with billions of dollars going down the drain, Niger built its refineries in less than three years, pushing utilisation from zero to about 90 per cent in 2019.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had boasted that Nigeria’s four refineries had combined capacity of 445,000 barrels per day (BPD) and had gulped more than N148 billion in the last 13 months processing less than 40,000 metric tons of crude oil. As of 2013, Nigeria’s refineries were producing 113,524 tonnes of gasoline, 217,222 tonnes of diesel and more than 20,000 tonnes of bottled liquified natural gas for domestic use per year, a report quoted by Wikipedia noted. But the refineries, in 2018 alone, made a total loss of N132.5 billion, a 39 per cent increase from the N95.09b loss incurred in 2017.
But for Algeria, which comes third in terms of crude oil production in Africa after Nigeria and Angola with an output of about 1.1 million daily productions, ARA, in a document presented by its Executive Secretary, Anibor Kragha, showed that five refineries had remained operational with a combined capacity of 623,000 BPD and a condensate splitter of 107,000 BPD.
AGAINST the argument that government is a poor manager of a business, the refineries in Algeria are fully owned and operated by the national state-owned oil company of Algeria, Sonatrach.
Already, the country is currently planning to expand cracking and reforming capacity to produce higher-value fuels as it optimises local crude supply with plans to expand Hassi Messaoud refinery from 26,413 BPD to 110,000 BPD by 2024 and construction of diesel desulphurisation units for all refineries to commence planned AFRI clean fuel specifications.
While Sonatrach owns more than 75 per cent of total hydrocarbon production in Algeria, and International Oil Companies (IOCs) account for the remaining 25 per cent, utilisation of the refineries (Algiers, Arzew, Has Messaoud and Skikda) stand at 90 per cent at over 600, 000 barrel daily.
AT a time Nigerians are facing the impact of government’s deregulation policy with the continual increase in pump prices, Kragha revealed that eight refineries (with a combined capacity of 782,000 BPD) and five processing plants had placed Egypt as Africa’s largest refining hub. Against the poor management and harsh policy of the Nigerian system over its own refineries, the refineries in Egypt are state oil as total national capacity utilisation stood at around 71 per cent in 2019.
While Africa’s SDGs encompass transitioning to cleaner fuels by upgrading refineries and infrastructure and driving industrialisation and innovation, Kragha stated that goals would remain elusive unless the continent maximised high-value products that address local and export markets.
African Union had made move to adopt AFRI Clean Fuels Roadmap being championed by ARA to harmonise cleaner fuel specifications thereby reducing sulphur in fuels from about 150 ppm to 10 ppm by 2030.