Dangote refinery raising hope for Nigeria’s oil sector

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Presently, Nigeria is home to some of the world’s poorest performing refineries. That storyline may change in the next 12 months or thereabouts when the Dangote Petroleum Refinery, the largest single-train refinery in the world opens its doors for business. Besides the impending narrative change, the country would also be home to the best and biggest refinery equipment ever built-in global refining history, become a petroleum refining hub in Africa, while the refinery will meet the country’s gasoline requirements with a bit of surplus to export.

For decades before work commenced on the 650,000 barrels a day (bd) refinery project, some of the most advanced refineries and petrochemical plants globally included the Reliance Industry’s Jamnagar Refinery in India; the Zhanjiang Refinery in China; the Yanbu Refinery and the Sadara Chemical Complex, both in Saudi Arabia.

But while Asia and the Middle East have been dominating the recent refinery project landscape, the massive refinery gathering steam at the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos, apart from making Nigeria refined products exporting country, is also expected to attract more foreign investors to the country.

Recently, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, while affirming the Dangote Petroleum Refinery’s capacity to boost foreign direct investment, said the completion would be a symbol of the Nigerian success story. Sylva while on a tour of the project site said it was necessary to support it to ensure successful completion, a crucial step that would aid Federal Government’s aspiration of reversing the ugly trend of fuel importation.He said: “This is a very heart-warming moment for all of us as Nigerians. There is no way a project of this magnitude will be going on and the government will not be interested. Anywhere in the world, if a citizen of a country has committed so much money into investing in this kind of massive project, the government must show interest.

“I must say now that Dangote Group has turned this project to the story of all of us; we must all support this project to succeed because the success of this project signals a lot. Of course, I am sure that the whole world is looking at the success of this project. Investors all over the world will look at the success of this project and will come to Nigeria to at least also enjoy the benefit of investing here.

So, we are here to assure you, Dangote Group, that as a government, as NNPC, we will support this project as much as we can. You have done very well,” the former Bayelsa State governor stated. He noted that the Dangote Petroleum Refinery and Petrochemical complex was a testament that the country possesses an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, and added that the success of the project would boost investor confidence in the country’s oil and gas projects.

Dangote Petroleum Refinery is exploring new technology in its choices for the biggest and best equipment in the history of global crude refining, just as the firm’s appetite for the best refinery equipment was showcased recently with the importation of the world’s largest Crude Oil Distillation Column, specially constructed for the refinery. Due to its size, while loading the equipment on the vessel from China, it first had to be transported from the fabrication unit on a barge to a river port, where a special RoRo vessel was hired.

The equipment had to be transported using Self-propelled Modular Transport, while the vessel was also moored in a unique method called the Mediterranean moor, wherein the equipment was rolled in straight from the aft of the vessel.With the latest development, the refinery project is in the process of upstaging other recent high-profile hydrocarbon processing plants previously commissioned in more developed climes.

Earlier this year, the company installed the biggest Residual Fluid Catalytic Cracker (RFCC) ever known in the global refining sector; an attestation of its desire to ensure that Nigeria becomes a petroleum refining hub in Africa. Designed in such a way that no expense is spared in implementing the latest processing, analytical, automation, and environmental technologies at the new single-stream facility, the refinery is also designed to accommodate multiple grades of domestic and foreign crude (including shale oil) and process these into high-quality gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and aviation fuels that meet Euro V emissions specifications, plus polypropylene.

It will include a crude distillation unit, single-train residual fluid catalytic cracking unit, diesel hydro-treating unit, continuous catalyst regeneration unit, alkylation unit, and a polypropylene unit. Head, Maritime and Port Infrastructure of Dangote, Captain Rajen Sachar, while speaking during the arrival of the vessel conveying the Crude Distillation Column to Dangote Jetty, described the equipment as the biggest single-train facility used for refining crude in the world.

The equipment manufactured by Sinopec, in China, is the primary unit that processes crude oil into fuels.He said the equipment was capable of refining 650, 000 barrels-per-day (BPD), adding that the refinery has the potential to transform the country from an importer of fuel to a net exporter.He said the technology is significant to Nigeria and Dangote Petroleum Refinery, because “this is the largest crude oil processor in the world,” adding that the technology would bring a multiplier effect to the company and Nigeria through supply to the huge market.

Sachar noted that the project is also expected to generate over 9, 500 direct and 25, 000 indirect jobs. “The Crude Distillation Column is the largest in terms of distilling capacity, which is 650, 000 barrels per stream day. Presently, this is the world’s largest single-train refining Column. It is the largest diameter, longest length, and the heaviest single-unit equipment in domestic export equipment. It will be installed in the world’s largest single-series refinery – the 32.5 million tonnes/year Dangote Refinery in Nigeria,” he added.He said the equipment was shipped through a vessel from China to avoid being damaged and also to avoid traffic congestion if it were to be delivered to the site by road from the Apapa Ports Complex.

Sachar also explained that he said: “The Dangote Jetty was designed with consideration for very heavy and very long cargoes. Therefore, the jetty was built with a permissible load density of 15 T/m2, which will enable it to handle vessels of up to 160m. The jetty is also designed with the capacity to carry out both the Roll-On and Roll-Off functions, as well as Lift-On/ Lift-Off operations.”

Still shedding more light on the capacity of the refinery, Group Executive Director, Strategy, Capital Projects & Portfolio Development, Dangote Industries Limited, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, stressed that the refinery is the largest single-train refinery in the world. It is about 50 per cent larger than the largest refinery and if you see the plot plan and the design, we have made provisions for doubling this capacity. Petroleum refineries globally are all tuned to maximise the production of diesel because diesel is the largest produced commodity. If you go to the US, Europe, India, Singapore, and the Nigerian refineries too, they are all tuned to maximise diesel production, but Nigeria is unique because the consumption of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) is the maximum in Nigeria, compared to even diesel.

“So, we took a unique approach. This refinery should be designed to maximise gasoline and not diesel; that’s one of the first things we focused on. That’s why this refinery can meet the entire gasoline requirement of Nigerians, and still have a bit of surplus to export.“Then, we adopted the normal three pillars we use in any business we enter. The first is, go for the latest technology with a focus on minimising the cost of production because of the technology involved, and as part of the process, we went for a very complex refinery because, for every barrel of crude that goes in, we want to extract the maximum value from it. So, that is why we are maximising by having an integrated petrochemical complex, to maximise gasoline, which is the highest in demand. So, everything will be a high-value product; that’s our primary focus,” he added.

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