Nigeria: A New Refinery in the Horizon

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Chineme Okafor, tracks the progress of work at Waltersmith’s first phase refinery project and reports that all things being equal Nigeria could get its first structured modular refinery in place and working next month

In 1965, Nigeria built its first refinery at Alesa Eleme in Port Harcourt; the plant had an initial production capacity of 38,000 barrels a day (bd) which was later expanded to 60,000bd. With this, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which ran it tried to meet the country’s domestic demand for refined petroleum products, however, it could not and had to set up another in Warri in 1979 with a 100,000bd production capacity.

Two more – the Kaduna refinery and a second in Eleme, were subsequently built by the NNPC within the 1980s to bring Nigeria’s oil refining capacity to 445,000bd which adequately met her domestic demands for refined products at the time, and even portions exported.

From the 1990s however, outputs from the country’s four refineries became insufficient for her growing population such that the NNPC resorted to importing petroleum products to augment. Buoyed by corrupt practices in the running of the refineries, poor maintenance and incompetent management routines, the preference for imported refined oil then ensured that the production capacities of the refineries declined further with the years.

With such rather unhealthy business fundamentals, investments in new refineries – modular or monolithic, became rare in Nigeria, and this was despite business experts’ conviction that the country has a healthy market prospect for refined petroleum products.

Plugging into the demand, opportunity

Based on such convictions, and to equally change the ugly narrative of an oil producing country heavily trusting on imported petrol to run its domestic economy, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) issued permits for construction of new refineries; as at 2018, the DPR in this regard issued about 47 new licenses for private refineries. Collectively, the licences had circa 101 million barrels production capacity.

Out of the 47, some have achieved considerable milestones in their development, while others have equally failed to move the needle further – the licenses of 17 in this category have also been cancelled by the DPR. But amongst those that have made significant progress in the refinery endeavour is Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company whose first phase 5000bd capacity refinery is apparently due for commissioning in the first weeks of October.

THISDAY from its tracking of the project’s trajectory learnt from a recent report presented to a visiting team which included the Governor of Imo state, Mr. Hope Uzodimma, the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed and Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr. Simbi Wabote, that the soon-to-be commissioned first phase will deliver about 271 million liters of refined petroleum products comprising diesel, kerosene, heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) and naphtha per annum.

With these, the refinery will produce and supply more diesel and kerosene into Nigeria’s domestic petroleum products market, subsequently cutting down the volumes imported, as well as HFO which are mostly used as marine transportation fuel and naphtha used amongst others as paint thinner and feedstock for manufacturing plastics.

“The 5,000bopd phase one refinery was to be commissioned in Q2 2020, at which time it had progressed to 98 per cent completion but was delayed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Commissioning is now planned for late September/early October 2020 and the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was invited with other dignitaries for a pre-commissioning tour of the refinery on Tuesday the 15th of September 2020. The phase one of this refinery will deliver about 271 million litres of refined petroleum products – diesel, kerosene, Heavy Fuel Oil-HFO and naphtha per annum,” said a statement obtained from the project financiers on the status of works.

It further explained that the refinery which has a second phase is a joint venture between Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited, a Nigerian energy company and the NCDMB on a 70 and 30 per cent equity shares distribution. This means that the federal government has a 30 per cent share in the endeavour.

In its account of how the project moved from the paper to the site, the firm said that it, “carried out a feasibility study for modular refining in support of the federal government of Nigeria’s aspiration and with the proximity of many producing oil, gas and condensate fields in the Ibigwe hub. By 2018, Final Investment Decision (FID) had been taken and in October 2018 the ground-breaking ceremony was done, effectively kicking off the construction phase in November 2018.”

According to it, the first phase of the modular refinery targeted 5,000bpd of own operated crude oil as feedstock, with alternative sources from the over 7,000bpd NNPC/SEPLAT OML-53 joint venture Ohaji South production field which is processed at Waltersmith’s Ibigwe flow station.

“Negotiations on crude sales and purchase agreements are at an advanced stage with both SEPLAT and NNPC,” it added.

Beyond the first phase

In addition to the planned commissioning of the first phase of its refinery, Waltersmith noted that it has gone ahead with works on the second phase, and other energy-security related projects earmarked in its investment portfolio.

Amongst these are a 25,000bpd phase two condensate refinery and 20,000bpd phase three crude oil refinery, a 300 megawatts (MW) gas power generation company (Genco), as well as a 500-hectare industrial and innovation park in partnership with the Nigerian government, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The park, it added will support economical energy-related production endeavours.

“With the exceptional planning and execution of this first Phase of the refinery, Waltersmith initiated the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) for the 25,000bpd phase two condensate refinery and the 20,000bpd phase three oil refinery to maximise feedstock from the nearby ANOH Gas Plant Company (AGPC) and some additional commercial discussions were progressed on some nearby oil and gas assets, with the investments proposed by Waltersmith to develop the oil assets to be used as feedstock for the 20,000bpd refinery and the gas assets for the 300MW gas power plant, both enormously strategic to the domestic energy security strategy of Waltersmith and aspirations of the federal government of Nigeria.

“These commercial discussions on both the condensate feedstock, the crude oil and gas developments strategies are currently ongoing and Waltersmith has approached NNPC for its support in making this a reality,” it stated.

Further, it said: “The 25,000bpd phase two condensate refinery FEED was completed in Q1-2020, feasibility study in Q2-2020 and the EPC contracting process has been initiated with Final Investment Decision (FID) planned for Q4-2020 and delivery by Q4 2022.

“The ground-breaking ceremony will be done in conjunction with the commissioning of the 5,000bpd phase one refinery in September/October 2020. When completed the phase two will deliver about 1.4 billion liters per year of refined petroleum products – Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), diesel, kerosene, aviation jet fuel and HFO, in addition to the 271 million litres from the phase one.”

The firm explained that the overall impact of these investments will be huge, adding that, “current estimates of direct and indirect job creation in this industrial hub during the planning, design, construction and commissioning phases will exponentially grow from an estimate of over 500 jobs in 2020 to over 18,000 jobs by the commissioning of the industrial complex in about 2025.”

“This will then be followed by an even greater exponential growth in job creation when the manufacturing, commercial, residential and technology innovation hubs go into operation post 2025,” it stated while confirming that regulatory licence for the 300MW power Genco has been granted it by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

Local communities not left out

To ensure that its plans and investments do not get wrecked by conflicts of interests associated with host communities, Waltersmith, indicated that it has taken along its host and access communities on the journey, with up to N1 billion earmarked for community welfare-related projects over the next 10 years.

Regular contracts, it explained will also be extended to local suppliers and vendors to guarantee shared prosperity from its operations within the area.
“Of note is the massive impact this will have on the growth of the host, access and other communities in this area, including the job opportunities both in skilled, unskilled and community contracts this will generate.

“Building on Waltersmith’s highly successful community engagement strategy, which has secured license to operate for over a decade, over N1 billion will be committed to community projects in line with the existing 2019 to 2024 GMOU.

“In addition, Waltersmith is committed to the N460 million ISOPADEC Ohaji/Egbema electrification project to which it has agreed to contribute 50 per cent and technical advice, as required, and has already paid a substantial part of this pledge. We are also expanding our technical skills acquisition program to train an initial crop of 80 graduates from the community to become highly skilled professionals,” it stated.