African Oil Refiners Bank on Eight Refinery Projects to Increase Aviation Fuel

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

The African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARDA) has said that about eight ongoing refinery projects on the continent will significantly increase the production of jet-A1 fuel by 95 per cent when they are completed.

Executive Secretary, ARDA,  Nigeria’s Anibor Kragha, said the continent’s growing population would continue to increase demand for aviation fuels, adding that local refineries must be encouraged to mitigate the current challenges.

The Nigerian aviation industry has recently been challenged by the growing price and scarcity of jet-A1, since the entire product consumed in the country is imported.

The aviation sector was initially recovering after being grounded due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this has been met with a global energy crisis, leaving jet fuel prices in Nigeria and other African countries at historic highs.

Kragha, who spoke at an ARDA Storage/Distribution & Jet Fuel Forum in Dakar, Senegal, which was monitored virtually, explained that improving local refining capacity within Africa would not only reduce supply chain shocks but enable the continent to enforce harmonised standards.

The organisation’s head noted that Africa’s import dependent aviation fuel market and the drastic reduction in capacity utilisation across refineries on the continent were responsible for the Jet-A1 crisis facing the continent.

While further expressing the need to embrace renewables in the sector, Kragha maintained that the gross inadequacy of refineries across the continent posed serious bottlenecks to the implementation of cleaner fuel specifications.

In his comments, the  Executive Director at CITAC Africa, James McCullagh said three North African countries – Algeria, Egypt and Libya accounted for almost all export of Jet-A1 production in Africa.

He noted that while African jet-A1 demand grew by 3.2million metric tonnes (49 per cent) between 2006 and 2019, it slumped by 4.7million tonnes (48 per cent) in 2020 owing to the pandemic.

He argued that the 2019 demand levels may not be reached until 2024-2025, as steady growth is expected to be driven by regional routes and population growth.

“North African production peaked at 5.2 million tonnes in 2013, it is now down by 41.2 per cent to 3.0 million metric tonnes in 2021 while Sub-Saharan Africa production peaked at 3.7 million metric tonnes in 2016, it was down 59 per cent to 1.5 metric tonnes in 2021,” McCullagh said.

According to him, a key reason for declining production is the number of refineries that either closed permanently or went into long-term shutdown between January 2012 and December 2021.

In total, he noted that this has reduced Africa’s operating refinery capacity by over 1 million barrels per day.

In addition, a Senior Inspector, Joint Inspection Group (JIG)  at Vivo Energy, Abdou Diop disclosed that 70 per cent of jet fuel on the continent is imported, leading to some logistics constraints.

Diop noted that the situation in West African countries like Nigeria has been exacerbated by vessel suitability berths availability, which continues to pose a challenge.

He insisted that there was the need for a complementary process to ensure formal audits, standards and regulations,  understanding of aviation fuel supply and continually updating to reflect changes in the supply chain.

 General Manager of JIG, Mark Newstead, argued that product contaminations could result in airport or in-flight incidents with consequences that could include loss of aircraft.

He noted that overall performance on standards was improving, but that more work  was needed as there were general deficits in areas that required understanding and knowledge of standards.

Head of Good Practice, Fuels & Fuel Handling at the Energy Institute (EI), Martin Hunnybun said that a supplement on sustainable aviation fuel would be issued this  October, adding that the sector is gathering technical feedback for consideration in development of the third edition of the new standard.

Also speaking, Director, Inspections, Monitoring and Safety at Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Esther Anku, said that there were indications of increasing demand for jet fuel, especially with the easing of restriction on travels.

She stressed the need for quality assurance and infrastructure development, noting that Ghana anticipated that players in the industry would improve their efficiency to take advantage of the expected increase in demand.

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