Moving into a new ultra-modern head office in Lagos is testament to Propetrol’s steady growth from humble beginnings, to becoming a leading indigenous player in West Africa’s oil trade, as it repositions to expand onshore and offshore, writes Demola Ojo
In the midst of a global pandemic that has put many businesses in peril, especially in the oil and gas sector which has witnessed historically low prices in tandem with reduced demand for products, Propetrol Nigeria Limited, a leading player in West Africa’s bunkering business, is not only standing firm, but spreading its tentacles further afield.
Moving into a new multi-billion naira edifice in Lagos, is just one of many indications of a growing business that has defied the doomsday predictions swirling around Nigeria’s volatile oil and gas industry.
The prime waterfront property on the edge of the Five Cowrie Creek, which offers amazing views of the iconic Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge, is set to be the cynosure of all eyes that view it from both land and water.
The all-white storey building which makes ample use of glass to take advantage of scenic views, is a work of art filled with tasteful paintings and sculpture, which complement the sophisticated furniture befitting a modern, high-flying oil and gas firm.
Propetrol is renowned as a leader among indigenous firms successfully providing ethical solutions to the industry that drives Africa’s biggest economy.
Through its aggressive expansion drive, the company has made its mark across the West African coast, spreading its tentacles across the Gulf of Guinea, from Ghana to Sao Tome and Liberia, and into parts of Southern Africa.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the face of the oil and gas industry globally, and forward-thinking organisations have had to take steps to position themselves to improve their efficiency and deliver superior customer experience.
To this end, the company has concluded plans to acquire a storage facility, open more filling stations and bid for an oil mining licence.
Under the guidance of founder and CEO Harry Ebohon, Propetrol has distinguished itself in the Nigerian petroleum market, as a pioneer company fuelling growth through innovation, right from inception in 2002.
Propetrol is at the forefront of consolidating Nigeria’s position as a bunker trading hub in West Africa. This has been achieved by seizing the initiative to sanitize the industry through ethical product sourcing, quality assurance and logistical expertise.
Under Ebohon’s supervision, Propetrol has grown to become one of the top indigenous businesses operating in the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, with a reputation for quality products at competitive prices, reliability, and strict adherence to global safety standards.
The company prides itself in its ability to consistently make safe and timely deliveries of all petroleum products to customers comprising several exploration and production companies. It also provides bunkers for shipping fleets and individual vessels.
Providing dedicated bespoke energy solutions to diverse private and industrial clients, Propetrol has grown beyond Nigeria, with operations along the West African coast and in southern Africa.
The company is registered with several NOC’s, refineries in West Africa, India, the Arabian Gulf and in Europe, as well as oil majors (BP, Shell) and many other big traders (Glencore, Trafigura, Vitol) in the industry. Among its clients are all the IOCs operating in Nigeria as well as indigenous oil companies.
The numbers are impressive and only point to getting better, with a bunkers market share of close to 70 per cent. The company prides itself on achieving a 100 per cent delivery on product supply contracts, which has helped it realize an annual average growth rate of 67 per cent.
Founded in 2002 as a haulage company providing services for oil majors like Total, Oando and Mobil, Propetrol went through a series of expansions before venturing into the bunkers market in 2013.
Before 2013, Propetrol successfully retailed petroleum products across different outlets nationwide under its Propel brand. Ebohon nurtured Propetrol from one retail outlet in Ikeja, to more than 20 filling stations across the country, and staff of over 300 manning different business concerns onshore and offshore.
The company is in the process of acquiring more retail outlets under its Propel brand to further serve the needs of petroleum consumers in strategic locations across the country, starting with a mega station in Lagos.
However, Propetrol is continuing to channel more resources in the bunkers market, a sector where it has taken a leading role and excelled since 2013.
Prior to 2013, the Nigerian oil industry suffered significantly from crude oil theft and the activities of illegal bunker traders. This prompted the Nigerian government to place a ban on bunker trading from 2000 till 2013.
Following the lifting of the ban, international suppliers held sway in the bunkers market, and subsequently exported proceeds to their home country. This amounted to a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue in taxes – as well as job opportunities – leaving the shores of the country.
In addition to this, unscrupulous local elements traded illegally refined fuels sourced from stolen crude. Both scenarios were to the detriment of the Nigerian economy.
Noticing the gap in the market, Propetrol devised a strategy that has over the years seen it pull away from the competition, making it a reference among indigenous bunkers supply companies in the Nigerian downstream industry.
The company started with improvements in the procurement process for bunker fuels by initiating partnerships with international bunker cargo trading companies through trading lines, which allowed her bring import cargos into Nigeria.
To provide affordable fuels, the company then set out to ensure products were properly sourced from reputable international companies, before heavily investing in bunker vessels fully classified for Nigerian operations.
In addition, there was a massive education drive to sensitise procurement teams of companies who hitherto patronised suppliers of illegal products, on the dangers of their practice, and the availability of a relatively affordable, yet ethically sourced alternative.
This strategy is in line with Propetrol’s mission to provide consistent and superior value through competitive pricing and exceptional customer service delivery.
As the oil and gas industry slowly picks up following a downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Propetrol is racing out of the blocks, with years of preparation and experience putting the company in a vantage position to take advantage of opportunities for its customers’ benefit.