Home Business Oil & Gas Dangote begins 650,000 b/d petrol refinery in November – ED

Dangote begins 650,000 b/d petrol refinery in November – ED

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By the last day of November, this year, Dangote Refinery will begin the refining of 650,000 barrels per day (b/d) of Premium Motor Spirits (commonly called petrol or fuel).

A month earlier, the refinery, inaugurated by the then President Muhammadu Buhari last 22nd May and heralded as a game-changer for Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa, will begin the commercial production of between 350,000 and 370,000 b/d diesel and jet fuel, Dangote Group’s Executive Director, Devakumar Edwin said on Tuesday.

Edwin said the refinery would receive its initial shipment of crude in the next two weeks.

The director, who is overseeing the $19.5 billion refinery, outlined a detailed production timeline, shed light on crude and product flows and laid out a litany of complications and delays to the project since it was first mooted in 2013.

Edwin, who previously ran Dangote Cement, explained: “Right now, I’m ready to receive crude. We are just waiting for the first vessel. And so as soon as it comes in, we can start,” he said during an exclusive interview with S&P Global Commodity Insights”.

At its full planned capacity of 650,000 b/d, the refinery would make Nigeria self-sufficient in fuels and leave plenty more for export.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, but it imports refined petrol despite having four refineries that have become dysfunctional. Oil explorers in the country export crude to foreign refiners and import it back to the country for sale to downstream players, eroding its foreign exchange reserves.

Due to persistent delays and cost overruns, doubts emerged about whether Africa’s wealthiest individual, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, would ever complete the project.

In May, Business Insider reported that Nigeria’s goal to refine its oil is set to become a reality in two weeks with the commissioning of the project. Four months later, the world’s largest single-train refinery is yet to commence operation.

Meanwhile, fuel prices have skyrocketed in Nigeria after President Bola Tinubu scrapped the long-standing fuel subsidy that has kept oil prices at affordable prices for citizens on his inauguration day, 29th May.

According to Edwin, by October, the refinery’s crude distillation unit, sulfur block and hydrogen plant should be online.

S&P Global analysts have projected that the refinery may not achieve its full operating capacity until mid-2025, with further delays still possible.

Still, forecasts from the capital market company suggest Nigerian gasoline production will exceed imports until the 2040s due to the refinery.

Although the refinery was designed to process light sweet Nigerian crude, state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp, a shareholder in the project, can not supply the refinery until November, Edwin said. So, Dangote is buying oil from trading houses. Vitol and Trafigura recently carried out inspections of the plant, he explained.

Edwin said: “At the last minute, (NNPC Limited) said ‘we have actually committed our crude on a forward basis to someone else’, so immediately they don’t have the crude. This is a temporary issue, and the refinery should run on exclusively Nigerian crude by November”.

He also emphasised that Nigerian oil would be purchased in United States dollars, not Naira, as some reports had suggested because it is located in a free zone on the outskirts of Lagos. However, due to its equity stake, NNPCL would supply some crude at knockdown prices.

Edwin said the scale of the refinery meant being “solely dependent on Nigerian crude would not be advisable”, meaning the refinery can process most African crudes – apart from heavy Angolan grades – as well as Middle Eastern Arab Light and even US light tight oil.

“We can take even some of the Russian grades… if the global system opens up to allow us to receive them”.

While discussions were initiated as early as 2013, Edwin said Dangote only began physical construction five years ago following a string of delays and mishaps. “The first plot of land in a free zone in Ogun State was ditched following potentially ‘disastrous’ political interference”, he said.

Following the acquisition of 33 square kilometres of land in Lagos state for $100 million, the team discovered that over 70% of the plot was swampy terrain and spent a year clearing it.

Then, faced with the possibility of rising seawater claiming the land in the next 70 years, Dangote spent $50 million elevating the land by 1.5 meters. “We had to hire the world’s largest dredger, second largest dredger, and third largest dredger to… pump in about 65 million cubic meters of sand”, Edwin further said.

The company also had to construct a port capable of receiving extremely heavy assembled equipment because it lacked the infrastructure to assemble equipment in Nigeria, import 200,000 pikes to prevent sinking, buy 320 cranes and invest in a 10 million ton per year granite quarry.

Ultimately, delays proved a blessing, Edwin said, because “we had time to increase the capacity of the refinery [and] improve efficiencies in the design. What will be the world’s largest single-train refinery began life as a 300,000 b/d project.

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