Port Harcourt, Warri Refineries: Setting the record straight


Group CEO of NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari

By Temitayo Ezekiel

If there’s any organization in Nigeria that is a soft target for slothful critics, it’s most certainly the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL). The reasons are obvious. It’s in charge of harnessing Nigeria’s oil and gas reserves, which provides 95 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and 80 percent of its budgetary revenues.

Whenever anything goes wrong with the economy or any semblance of it, it must be due to the alleged mismanagement at the NNPC.

Many of those attacking the NNPC Limited are blackmailers who, just like kidnappers, try to use threats to extort money or other benefits from their targets.

Such acts could be seen as robbery without the use of arms and the art of soft violence that many Nigerians have mastered and practice as a vocation.

There’s always a personal motive for the blackmailer, which he cloaks in patriotic zeal. But he’s the enemy of the collective; the enemy of the people.

One of such act with personal motive was demonstrated in the front-page of the Friday’s edition of Leadership Newspapers dated 5th of January, 2024, with a headline: “After December Deadline… Port Harcourt, Warri Refineries Still Not Ready.”

The report, which does not represent facts in any material way among other blatant lies, claimed that NNPC Ltd had announced that the Warri Refinery would commence production by the end of December 2023.

The report also stated that the mechanical completion and start-off of production activities announced on 21st December, 2023, is a ruse calculated at deceiving Nigerians, and that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is angry with the Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Ltd, Mr. Mele Kyari, over the matter.

It is unfortunate that in the entire article, the writer and even the Editors of Leadership Newspapers refused to acknowledge the vigorous and groundbreaking reforms at the NNPC Ltd since Mele Kyari was first appointed as the Group Managing Director of the oil company in July 2019.

That the writer and the Editor of a national paper like Leadership could ignore the well documented progress at the NNPCL particularly the refinery project under the visionary leadership of the now Group Chief Executive Officer, Mele Kyari is a confirmation that they are really not in touch with the giant strides being achieved by the NNPC Boss since he took over in 2019.

More curious is the fact that for all these weighty claims, the newspaper cited no credible source other than “informed sources”.

For a start, there was never a time when NNPC Limited communicated to the public that the refinery would commence production by December 31.

The messaging around the Refineries’ Rehabilitation Project has been very clear from the NNPC Limited which is that while the date for the completion of the Port Harcourt Refinery rehabilitation was set at December, 2023, that of the Warri Refinery was set at the first quarter of 2024.

Conflating the two, as Leadership did in the report, smacks of nothing but mischief apparently calculated to make NNPC Ltd look bad in the eyes of the public.

For the avoidance of doubt, there is nothing deceptive about the mechanical completion of the Port Harcourt Refinery as announced by the NNPC Ltd on 21st December, 2023, which was well within the period promised by the Company.

The refinery is currently in operation with test-run activities, including instrument calibration, water testing of pipes and storage facilities, etc., ongoing.

It must be pointed out that though products flow from the plant is the ultimate goal of the production process, all the test-run processes currently going on are no less part of the operation of the facility.

A further proof that the story is ill-contrived and a hatchet job against the NNPC Ltd is the total abandonment of the cardinal principle of “hearing from the other side”, a key pillar of journalism ethics.

Done with citing nebulous “informed sources” both at the Presidency and the refineries, the newspaper betrayed its sinister motive by reporting that: “… Group General Manager, NNPCL, Garbadeen Muhammad, rebuffed weeks of frantic efforts by our correspondent to secure their reactions to the report.”

It is curious that the newspaper spent weeks seeking reactions from the former spokesperson of the Company who retired several months before the announcement of the completion of the Port Harcourt Refinery rather than the current spokesperson of the Company.

The fact that Leadership newspaper does not even know that Mr Femi Soneye, who was appointed as the Chief Corporate Communications Officer since October 18, 2023 shows that the paper is not in tune with current realities at NNPC.

For the records, the Port Harcourt refinery located in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria has been operational since 1965. It is the oldest and the biggest of the three government-owned oil refining sites in the West African country.

Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), is the owner and operator of the refinery.

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The oil refinery complex consists of a 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) old refinery that started operations in 1965 and a 150,000bpd new refinery that came on stream in 1989.

Despite having a combined crude processing capacity of 210,000bpd, the Port Harcourt refinery, like other state refineries of the country, has been operating only at a fraction of its capacity over the last few decades due to process inefficiency and lack of maintenance. This has led to the growing reliance of Nigeria, Africa’s largest crude producer, on imports of refined petroleum products.

The PHRC rehabilitation project, which costs about $1.5bn, is an EPCIC project that covers engineering, procurement, construction, installation, and commissioning phases.

For Area-5, which is a segment of the refinery that will produce 60 million barrels per day, the engineering, procurement, construction, and installation have all been completed. The mechanical completion signifies the closure of the construction and installation phases, according to NNPCL.

The milestone was achieved under a Health, Safety and Environment record, which stood at over 9.5 million man-hour with zero Loss Time Injury.

On April 7, 2021, the NNPC officially signed a contract with Tecnimont SPA for the $1.5bn rehabilitation program of the Port Harcourt Refining Company.

Parties in the agreement also announced the commencement of the project following the signing of the contract at the headquarters of the company in Abuja

The rehabilitation project, being undertaken in three phases, is expected to be completed by 2025. But the first phase of the project, which is the mechanical completion phase, has been done by the NNPC

The new Port Harcourt refinery comprises a Crude Distillation Unit (CDU), a Vacuum Distillation Unit (VDU), a Naphtha Hydrotreating Unit (NHTU), a Catalytic Reforming Unit (CRU), a Continuous Catalyst Regeneration (CCR) Unit, a kerosene hydrotreating unit, a fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit, and a dimersol unit to convert propylene into a gasoline blendstock.

It also houses a butamer isomerisation unit, an alkylation unit, apart from hydrogen purification, fuel gas vaporiser, sour water, and caustic treatment units.

The old refinery comprises a CDU, a CRU, and a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) facility.

The refinery complex uses four turbo-generators of 14MW an hour of electricity generation capacity each and four boilers of 120 tonnes (t) an hour of steam generation capacity each.

The refinery products include petrol, diesel, LPG, aviation and domestic kerosene, low pour fuel oil (LPFO), and heavy pour fuel oil (HPFO)

Last year September, the then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had said the country’s biggest crude refinery in Port Harcourt would restart operation in December after it had completed a revamp that began over a year ago. But that the timelines were unmet.

Again, in January 2023, Sylva assured that part of the refinery would be completed by the year’s first quarter, but the government again failed to meet its target.

Mr Lokpobiri had in August this year assured that the Port Harcourt refinery will become functional by December while Warri and Kaduna will be ready by the end of next year.

But after many years of painstaking efforts to refine petroluem products in Nigeria, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd finally fulfilled its promise to Nigerians to complete the Rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery.

With the completion of the project, the refining of Petroleum products is expected to commence immediately after the Christmas break.

The Minister said bringing back the refineries to their optimal levels is a national aspiration, and the government remains focused on delivering that.

The facility would start refining 60,000 barrels of crude oil, and about 170 liters of refined petroleum products can be obtained from a barrel of crude oil. This implies that the 60,000bpd production from the Port Harcourt refinery can provide an estimated 10.2 million liters of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol and other refined products

It is instructive to state that the importation of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, popularly called cooking gas, would reduce as the refinery starts pumping out refined products.

Rather than begin a campaign of calumny against this national asset such as the nation’s refineries, Leadership Newspapers should join hands with patriotic Nigerians to support the leadership of the NNPCL to enable Nigeria have adequate “energy for today, energy for tomorrow.”

-Ezekiel is an environmental advocate, and he writes from Lagos State.

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