• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Dangote diesel hits market in threat for European refiners

Dangote refinery diesel

The supply of diesel from Dangote oil refinery is expected to bring to an end the importation of the product from European refiners estimated at 2.5 billion litres annually, BusinessDay’s findings have revealed.

For decades, European refiners have enjoyed a lucrative market in Nigeria as the unreliable power supply from the national grid forced companies across Africa’s fourth biggest economy to rely heavily on importing refined products with a net value of $17 billion annually.

Analysts and traders surveyed by BusinessDay said the supply of diesel from the Dangote refinery is expected to mount pressure on European refineries already at risk of closure from heightened competition.

Farai Ronoledi, an oil trader familiar with the European market, said the emergence of Dangote oil refinery is not just a domestic win but also represents a paradigm shift in the global refining landscape.

“Europe’s refineries face closures due to declining exports to Nigeria and other West African countries,” Ronoledi said.

The refinery, which cost $20 billion to build, started production in January. It can refine up to 650,000 barrels per day (bpd) and will be the largest in Africa and Europe when it reaches full capacity this year or the next.

“Once Nigeria sees Dangote reach a steady state capacity, that could mean some 327,000 bpd gasoline supply and 244,000 bpd of diesel,” Kelly Norways, an analyst at S&P Global Commodity Insights, said in an oil market podcast.

“Once we see the refinery ramp up, that could mean that West African gasoline imports or the import reliance that they have at the moment could drop by as much as 290,000 barrels per day between 2023 and 2026. So really, this could become quite a dominant supplier in the West African market,” he added.

Concerning reports on the level of sulphur in the diesel from the Dangote refinery, a senior executive in the trading business said traders in the West that supply the Nigerian diesel market cannot be happy.

“Dangote has taken away their market. Whatever the sulphur content is now will improve,” he said. “We must make do with Dangote diesel for now. Let the European sellers look for markets elsewhere.”

Data sourced from Klper, a global trade intelligence platform, showed about a third of Europe’s 1.33 million bpd average petrol exports in 2023 went to West Africa, a bigger chunk than any other region, with the majority of those exports ending up in Nigeria.

“The loss of the West African market will be problematic for a small set of refineries that do not have the kit to upgrade their gasoline to European and US specification,” Eugene Lindell, head of refined products at FGE’s consultancy said, referring to more stringent environmental standards for other markets.

The Dangote refinery, funded by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, was configured to produce as much as 53 million litres of petrol a day, about 300,000 bpd.

According to local oil marketers, diesel produced at the Dangote refinery has no vessel cost, import charges, and other costs associated with the costs associated with the importation of the commodity into Nigeria.

Findings by BusinessDay showed the price of diesel in most depots currently hovers around N950 to N1100. For instance, on Saturday, MRS depot at Apapa sold the product for N1,055 while Ibeto Depot put the price at N1,060.

Experts said the drop in West African imports will coincide with new environmental laws in Northwest Europe that will force plants to reconfigure, seek new markets for lower-quality petrol or close down.

Yaping Wang, senior refining analyst at Klper, said plants that have funds to reconfigure could direct petrol exports to the United States or South America.

But upgrading refineries is also difficult because banks are wary of lending money to fossil fuel projects.

“Even if you find a bank which will fund a European refinery upgrade project, rates will be too high to make it work,” said an executive at a major US bank that lends to oil companies.

Around 30 European refineries have shut down since 2009, data from refining industry body Concawe showed, with nearly 90 plants of various sizes and complexities still in operation.

Closures have been brought on by competition with newer and more complex plants in the Middle East and Asia and more recently because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since 2016, Europe has lost 1.52 million bpd of operational crude distillation which currently stands at 13.93 million bpd, according to IIR Energy.