NNPCL: Which PH refinery will commence operations in December: The old, the new or both?
By Usman Bello
A recent Federal Government announcement indicates that the Port Harcourt Refinery will begin operations in December 2023. This information would typically bring joy to citizens, but given the history of unfulfilled government promises over the years, skepticism prevails. The adage ‘once bitten, twice shy’ resonates, considering similar past government pronouncements that have eroded public confidence and trust.
The recent instances of Air Nigeria and the delayed commence of operation of the commissioned Dangote Refinery remain vivid in the minds of Nigerians and the global community. One is inclined to seek clarification on the promise regarding the completion of the PH refinery overhaul by the end of this year. The skepticism doesn’t revolve around whether the project will be completed only but also which plant will be commissioned.
As far as I know, the Port Harcourt Refinery comprises two plants: an old one with a capacity of 60,000 barrels per day and a newer one capable of processing 150,000 barrels per day.
Nigerians are eager to know which refinery will come online: the old, the new, or both. This inquiry stems from recent media reports detailing the progress of the refinery’s overhaul, where the managing director’s explanation focused on the old refinery but fell short of specifying its production capacity.
It’s crucial for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) to clarify precisely which plant(s) the project encompasses—whether it’s the older refinery with 60,000 bpd, the newer one with 150,000 bpd, or both.
NNPC’s historical practice of providing imprecise information about petroleum importation volume, local production and consumption is evident. Discrepancies in reported figures for daily petrol distribution raise doubts about the activities of companies and agencies resuming local production.
For instance, daily petrol consumption figures in Nigeria have been controversial. In May, it averaged 69.54 million liters, dropping to 49.48 million liters in June (a 28.3% decrease), and further down to 45.74 million liters in July (representing a 34.61% decline). These fluctuations highlight inconsistencies in reported figures.
If the old refinery plant commissioned in 1965 is the sole facility to commence production, approximately 9,540,000 liters of locally produced PMS would enter the market daily. Conversely, if the 150,000 bpd refinery starts operations, around 23,850,000 liters will be produced each day. If both plants operate, a total of 33,390,000 liters will be introduced to the market.
In essence, the introduction of these domestically produced products is anticipated to reduce the need for imported PMS and other products, potentially bolstering foreign reserve earnings and subsequently strengthening the currency while curbing inflation.
However, whether Nigerians can trust the current players in the petroleum sector, including President Bola Tinubu, to uphold these promises remains uncertain. President Tinubu, being relatively new in the management of the petroleum and gas sector, adds to the skepticism.
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