Government’s self-sufficient refining quest under threat
• NNPC refineries’ fluid crackers under-perform
• Produce more diesel, others than petrol
• Turnaround maintenance still a far cry
Nigeria’s quest for self-sufficiency in the refining of petroleum products, especially Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol, may remain a mirage, as the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Units (FCCUs) in all the refineries currently work below minimum levels.
The FCCU is one of the most important conversion processes in refineries. It is widely used to convert the high-boiling and molecular weight hydrocarbon fractions of crude oil into more valuable fuels for industrial and domestic purposes.
When the FCCUs are down, experts insist that it is impossible for the refineries to produce white products such as petrol, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG or cooking gas), Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) also used as domestic kerosene as well as aviation turbine kerosene (ATK or Jet A1) and automotive gas oil (AGO or diesel).
This news would sure not be cheery to both the government and citizenry. This automatically translates to more importation of petroleum products with scarce resources in this trying period of the nation’s life.
Rather, the facilities, which are operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), could only produce more of other types of low quality fuels like high or low pour fuel oil, otherwise called black oil.
The refinery operations report, exclusively obtained by The Guardian, shows that the average monthly capacity utilisation of all the refineries for January and February 2017 was 37.10 and 28.10 per cent.
The poor performance of the refineries means that the much-touted turnaround maintenance (TAM) of the facilities still remains a pipe dream despite having taken N264 billion in the last 17 years.
Nigeria is estimated to require about 35 million litres of PMS daily, aside from other products. According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the nation spent a whopping N2.5 trillion to import finished products last year.
The irony is that some of these items were imported from refineries across the globe, including those in some African countries like Niger among others, which do not boast of hydrocarbon resources.
Speaking with The Guardian on the low PMS output from the refineries, NNPC’s spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu, noted: “It is easier to process diesel than any other type of fuel from Naphtha. There are times that we look at the products that are of high demand in Nigeria. Right now, diesel is of high demand in Nigeria, and that is why the refineries are producing more of diesel.”
But stressing the need for Nigeria to be self-sufficient in petroleum refining, the Tax Partner and Oil and Gas Sector Leader in Ernst and Young (West Africa), Temitope Samagbeyi, believes the advent of modular refineries as being proposed by government will come to the rescue.