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11 days to deadline, NNPC silent on status of Port Harcourt refinery

11 days to deadline, NNPC silent on status of Port Harcourt refinery

With 11 days to the deadline, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Ltd has remained tight-lipped about the progress, next steps or completion of the Port Harcourt Refinery revamp.

The lack of communication has fueled anxiety among stakeholders and raised concerns about the project’s future, according to findings by BusinessDay.

The $1.5 billion rehabilitation project, launched in 2019, aims to restore the aging refinery to its nameplate capacity of 210,000 barrels per day (bpd). The NNPC Ltd had promised the 60,000 bpd part of the 210,000 bpd refinery would come online this December.

The project seen as a critical step towards boosting Nigeria’s domestic refining capacity and reducing its dependence on imported petroleum products, has been marred by delays and setbacks.

The initial deadline of 2022 was missed, and the current deadline of January 1, 2024, is now also in jeopardy.

The NNPC’s silence has not gone unnoticed as industry experts have expressed concern about the lack of updates.

NNPC released had released an update on the Port Harcourt refinery few weeks ago, where Ibrahim Onoja, the refinery’s current managing director, had maintained refinery would be ready this month.

However, Alex Ogedengbe, a former Group Executive Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd., (NNPC), who spoke on Channels Television, insisted that even from the information from the video update, it was not possible that the plant would work this year.

He stated that the old refinery NNPC was focusing on fixing, had not worked for over 30 years.

Read also: Port Harcourt refinery to start before end of 2023, says NNPC GMD

“But by the end of December, at best, they will have mechanical completion, and then they will do the testing of each equipment and system.

“You test one equipment; you see how it fits with another one. Then you put everything together as a system. The system tests may take anything from two weeks to one month before you can start, in my opinion, based on what he said.

“I don’t think it can be done more than within two or three months. Now, what you will get there again, is something like the old refinery of 60 years ago with just new equipment. The capacity is still 60,000 barrels per day,” Ogedengbe said.

Efforts to reach Femi Soneye, spokesman of NNPC Ltd proved abortive as at the time of writing this report.

Read also: Billions of dollars to fix Port Harcourt refinery a huge waste – Petroleum Engineer

“The NNPC needs to break its silence and provide some clarity on the refinery’s future,” Dan Kunle, a global energy business advisor with experience working with various energy agencies, said on Arise TV.

At the budget defence session on December 9, Mele Kyari, the group CEO at NNPC Ltd told lawmakers that by the end of December this year, the Port Harcourt refinery would commence operations.

Additionally, in early 2024, the Warri refinery is slated to begin, and by the end of the same year, the Kaduna refinery is expected to come online, according to Kyari.

Kyari affirmed this commitment, inviting accountability, asserting that these initiatives, including refinery rehabilitation, small-scale refinery efforts, and the upcoming Dangote refinery, aim to transform Nigeria into a net exporter of petroleum products by 2024.