PH refinery rehabilitation gives hope for turnaround of Nigeria’s refineries

A proverbial maxim, “Dry bone shall rise again’’ seems suitable to the long-moribund and wobbly state of the Port Harcourt Refinery Company (PHRC) Limited in Rivers State. The near–dead refinery has begun to exude a heart–warming hope to the teaming consumers of petroleum products in Nigeria – courtesy of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) now on rescue mission to bring the facilities back to life.

The company comprises two refineries: the first was built 54 years ago (1965) with a 60,000 barrels capacity per day while the second one with about 150,000 barrels per day was commissioned in 1989, bringing it to a total of 210,000 barrels capacity per day. The glory of the company began to wane years back alongside with the ones sited in Warri (Delta State) and Kaduna in Kaduna State due to some unmitigated technical facilities failure.

Records show that the PHRC in particular had its last Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) 19 years ago leading to its near-zero production capacity level of products – AGO (diesel), premium motor spirit (PMS) referred to as petrol and kerosene to meet the demand of consumers in Rivers State and across the country at large.

Consequently, it has been an endless tale of woes for Nigerians who without choice have to depend on imported products, especially PMS, to hedge on subsidy masquerade. Most baffling is that, successive NNPC managements via the Federal Government had carried out TAM on the plants before the current management but all the past efforts ended up like packaging salt in a basket on water surface.

However, the present Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, Maikanti  Baru, and his management team have succeeded in having the listening ears of the presidency for this 2019 TAM, assuring that the holistic surgery of the facilities would give birth to a new Port Harcourt Refinery.

With the secured approval and support of the presidency, Baru formally flagged off the rehabilitation project at the PHRC complex on March 21, 2019, as revealed in a statement by the NNPC Group Manager, Group Public Affairs, Ndu Ughamadu.

The prospect and dream to bring the PHRC back to life excited some major stakeholders in the downstream oil and gas sector in no small measure. One of such groups is the organised body of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN).

In his elated mood while speaking with BDSUNDAY, the executive chairman of IPMAN Port Harcourt Refinery Deport Unit, Emmanuel Inimgba Okubowei, described the NNPC revamp task as a mission to restore the lost glory of the country’s premier refinery. He stressed that it would once again put smiles on the faces of Nigerians and all stakeholders in the oil and gas economy.

Okubowei emphasised, “We the IPMAN group up to our national level extend our unalloyed support and commendation to the Federal Government and the Baru-led NNPC for taking the bull by the horns to resuscitate our ailing economic engine room back to local refining rather than importation of the end products, especially PMS’’.

“The quantum benefits of falling or going back to refine our petroleum products locally cannot be over-emphasised considering the added value chain in labour, employment, productivity and revenue increase. Importation of fuel in subsidy regime shrouded with intractable hiccups and sharp practices beget more harm to the economy of Nigeria and we believe that the rehabilitation exercise will be dream come true”, Inimgba expressed optimistically.

Earlier, the NNPC spokesman quoted his GMD in a statement that the revamp exercise would commence in phases beginning with Phase 1 of the old refinery with 60,000 barrels capacity per day and that would cover a period of six months (August 2019).

The project, according to him, would be handled by a Milan-based company, Maire Tecnimont S.P.A, in collaboration with its Nigerian affiliate, Tecnimont Nigeria, after which they would move to the second one believing that the plants should be able to achieve maximum capacity utilisation after a successful execution.

He further stated that NNPC had ENI/NADC as technical adviser to support the rehabilitation job and would leverage ENI’S extensive refinery supply chain network and warehouses to produce critical materials for the programme.

The rehabilitation would involve detailed integrity checks and equipment inspection of the plant beginning from end of March 2019, while the integrity would come as a forerunner to the second phase aimed at restoring the plants to 90 percent capacity utilisation, Ughamadu said.

He also explained that subject to the successful completion of the integrity checks, Phase 2 of the project would be executed on an engineering construction with the original builders of the plants known as JGC of Japan.

The chief operating officer up-stream ENI co-ups, Antonio Vella, on behalf of the contractors, said in order to increase the programme of PHRC, ENI would share with NNPC the knowledge and experience gained in decades of managing its own and participated refineries in Italy and other overseas countries.

He assured that all the companies involved would display all available modern resources to ensure effective upgrade of the plant, and enthused that with the commitment of all parties, ‘’It is certain that NNPC would be able to celebrate the revamp of the PHRC that would lead to its full capacity utilisation on schedule and in full safety”.

The NNPC GMD who earlier acknowledged the competence of the contractors said they would be able to bottleneck the refineries. “It is going to be some level of automation that that will be introduced and latest instrumentation introduced, so that the refinery when it is up, it will be easy to operate than what it was before.”

Baru further noted thus; “Several units that are fundamental are not in good shape. Like the stream unit, no refinery operates without streaming and that is a major heating element. This refinery is supposed to have four stream units. It reached a point that they have only one that is working. It cannot carry the capacity of the whole refinery”.

The entire PHRC community is also of high optimism. The IPMAN boss said: “Nigerians are really in for a good time as the refinery boosted by the current development is set to return to its days of glory and times when it contributed massively to the petroleum product pool of the country. This will no doubt reduce dependency on imported products and reinforce the availability of products locally all years round.”

 

Source: Business Day

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