A Port Harcourt international conference on gas, refining and petrochemicals organised by the Centre for Gas, Refining & Petrochemicals (CGRP), University of Port Harcourt, in collaboration with the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers (NSChE) is miffed at Nigeria’s $30 billion expended yearly on importation of petroleum products, despite the country being Africa’s top oil producer.
To the conferees, Nigeria’s continued “dependence on importation for our petroleum product needs is unacceptable and unsustainable because of its negative impact on scarce foreign exchange, the economy, loss of job creation opportunities.”
It would perhaps be the umpteenth demand on the government of a country, awash with more than 37.07 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, ranking 10th in the world, to get its inconsistent oil industry policy on growth track.
The GRP international conference in its fifth edition, headed by Anthony Ogbuigwe, a petroleum engineer and chairman, governing board of CGRP, also observed that the nation would stand on a positive economic post-Covid recovery position should it begin immediate-to-short-term robust local refining of crude oil against its continued importation. “The advantages of local refining over importation of petroleum products are keys to improved security, saving of foreign exchange, industrial development, job creation, manpower development, industrial harmony and other environmental benefits,” participants said.
The participants are sure that if the Presidency through the ministry of petroleum resources should, as a matter of priority, discourage Nigeria’s importation of petroleum products, and undertake local refining, it would engender untrammelled growth. The conferees therefore, urged that the federal government through the national oil company, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) should put in efforts “to get the nation’s four refineries back on stream either through public private partnership (PPP) as in the NLNG model or privatization as in the Indorama and Notore models.”
As a result, the participants advocated that the federal government should ensure more private sector participation in the downstream sector to encourage effective harnessing of the nation’s gas and hydrocarbon potentials. They commended the Dangote Industries Group’s efforts in promoting a 650,000 bpd Dangote Refinery; asking the central government to offer necessary assistance to facilitate the speedy completion and commissioning of the plant, coming off as Nigeria’s premier private refinery. Meanwhile, the conference said operators of the nation’s downstream industry should adopt reliability-centred maintenance practices (RCMP) as this will enhance their plants and operations for sustainable on-stream availability and high capacity utilisation.
With remarks from Stephen Okodudu, the acting vice-chancellor, University of Port Harcourt, Onochie Anyaoku, national president, Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers (NSChE), and Ipeghan Otaraku, acting director, CGRP, the conference noted that: “PPP have proved to be excellent economic models as seen at Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited, Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited and Notore Chemical Industries Limited.”
The conference, with 292 participants drawn from captains and operators of oil and gas industry (Nigerian refining companies, NLNG, Indorama, Notore), the academia, professionals, NGOs, and policy makers across the globe, blamed government policy inconsistency and adverse socio-economic considerations as some factors that militate against setting up of private refineries in Nigeria. “Everyone was eager to see the nation’s downstream sector of the oil and gas industry working again, and impacting positively on our economy.”
Its theme: “Towards a Robust Refining, Petrochemicals, and Gas Industry in Nigeria,” had a key objective to proffer “actionable solutions that can engender seamless operations of petroleum refining, petrochemicals and gas industry in Nigeria.” And that “Policy makers’ and industry operators’ attention needed to be drawn towards making a paradigm shift from exporting crude to in-country processing; and also leaning more on gas and petrochemicals therefrom to drive industrialization in Nigeria.” It equally observed the need for refinery upgrade and cleaner fuels infrastructure, while the demand for gas to produce more petrochemical products has been on the rise. And that global climate change policies can impact on foreign direct investments (FDIs) in gas, refining and petrochemicals operations; stressing that there is need for the harmonization of clean fuel specifications and tariffs across Africa to encourage inter-regional trade and address public health concerns.
By far, the GRP seminar noted that Nigeria, like other oil-reliant African countries, has not given sufficient attention to targeted and sustainable financing of the industry’s downstream sector. It noted that the demand for crude oil and other fossil fuels as energy sources have been on a steady decline over the years, because oil is losing its energy value due to stringent environmental policies of governments of various countries.
It added that gas has been described as the biggest opportunity in Nigeria for the future, and Hydrogen identified as the future of green energy.
Okodudu, the UniPort acting VC and Anyaoku of NSChE urged all stakeholders to join hands together to reposition the oil and gas and petrochemicals industry, in order to add value to the nation’s economy. Ogbuigwe, former group executive director, refining and petrochemicals at the NNPC and chairman, CGRP governing board, gave a keynote address; while Anibor Kragha, executive secretary, African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARA) spoke on: “Getting the Petroleum Refineries back on Stream: Sustainability and Socio-economic Considerations.” Tony Attah, the managing director, NLNG, talked on: “The Gas Conundrum: The way out for Industrialization and Consumption in Nigeria,” which highlighted the role of gas in today’s energy mix, describing it as the bedrock of industrialization in Nigeria. Bode Agagu, the group chief technical officer at Notore Chemical Industries Limited, dwelled on “Diversification of Petrochemicals Production in Nigeria: Overcoming the Challenges.”
It observed that the concept of Triple Helix – which is close co-operation between academia, government, industry and professional bodies was pinpointed as the appropriate route to drive desired change in the downstream sector. Also, the required future outcome in tertiary education can only be achieved via curriculum change so as to produce the smart industry input. Whereas, industry and community harmony is enhanced through equity participation of the community as has been experienced in Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited.