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The Port Harcourt refinery will become operational in July

The Port-Harcourt refinery with a capacity of 210,000 barrels per day can finally be put into operation at the end of July after several postponements.

The new date was announced on Monday by the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu.

He stated that the development would boost economic activities, reduce the price of petroleum products and ensure adequate supply.

Last year in December, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Heineken Lokpobiri, announced the mechanical completion and start-up of the largest crude oil refinery in Port Harcourt.

The refineries consist of two units, with the old plant having a refined capacity of 60,000 barrels per day and the new plant having a capacity of 150,000 BPD.

The refinery was closed in March 2019 for the first phase of repair work after the government called in a technical advisor from Itay’s Maire Tecnimont to handle assessments of the refinery complex, appointing oil giant Eni technical advisor.

On March 15, 2024, it was reported that the Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, stated that the Port Harcourt Refinery would become operational in about two weeks.

The NNPC boss made this known at a press conference after appearing before the Senate ad hoc committee probing the various maintenance projects of the country’s refineries.

He said: “We have completed the refinery mechanically, we said that in December. We already have crude oil in stock at the refinery. We are conducting regulatory compliance testing that must be done in every refinery before you start it, and I assure you that this refinery in Port Harcourt will start operations in two weeks.”

However, the machine had yet to come into operation two months after he made the promise.

In an exclusive interview on Monday, the IPMAN official stated that the work done represented a complete turnaround, and not just rehabilitation, stressing that every effort would be made to meet the July deadline.

Ukadike said: “Yes, when we visited the place, the MD told us that the refinery was almost ready and they would start production by the end of July. It has been turned into a new one, they replaced all the armored cables with brand new ones and everything almost looks like a brand new refinery.

“The maintenance work is enormous and work is done day and night. All hands are on deck to ensure they achieve that goal. The refinery should be ready by the end of July.”

When reminded of several promises made by the government to kick-start the project, Ukadike responded: “Yes, there have been delays but they have not given us any reason for the delay of the last deadline of April.

“They have no problems at all; I can say that the refinery is 99 percent complete.

“What we want is competition. I am very sure that with the two refineries, the price of gasoline will be reduced. Dangote is coming and the Port Harcourt refinery is also almost ready and that is very nice. We need that competition for the sake of the nation.”

The new timeline coincides with a proposal by the Dangote Refinery to start producing petrol by the end of next month (June).

The Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, while speaking at the annual summit of the Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, assured Nigerians that under the stated plans of the Dangote Refinery, Nigeria will not need to import petrol from next month .

According to him, the refinery can meet West Africa’s gasoline and diesel needs, as well as the continent’s jet fuel demand.

With an average monthly consumption of 1 billion liters, Nigeria currently spends about N520 billion on importing PMS every month.

This means that the government can reduce the annual import bill by about N6.2 trillion.

Commenting, NNPCL Chief Corporate Communications Officer Femi Soneye said approvals from international bodies were the only barrier to the operational start of the refinery.

Soneye, in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Monday, reiterated that mechanical completion had been achieved and that all pipes were functioning flawlessly and transporting crude oil supplied by Shell.

He said: “We have said that the mechanical completion has been completed and everything else has been done. There is crude oil and all the pipes are working; we are just waiting for regulatory approvals. As I said, some of our materials and the things we use are related to nuclear energy and we need the nuclear authorities to give us permission to use all those things on site.

“And some of these approvals come from agencies outside Nigeria. Until they give us that approval, we cannot start our activities. We’re ready to go, but if something happens without that, that would be another problem. Everything is complete as far as our work is concerned, and once we get those approvals, it will be put into use.”