Experts admonish Federal Government to sell Refineries
Experts have condemned the Federal Government’s move to source another $1.12 billion (N342.72 billion) to repair the nation’s refineries.Their opposition to the plan is premised on the speculation that the government may have spent up to N963 billion in the last 18 years for the repairs of the refineries without achieving the desired result reports TheGuardian
Stakeholders who spoke with The Guardian advised the Federal Government to hand over the management of the refineries to private investors through a transparent privatisation programme.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has four refineries, two in Port Harcourt Refinery Company Limited (PHRC) and one each in Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited (KRPC) and Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company Limited (WRPC). The facilities have a combined installed capacity of 445,000 bpd.The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, had said the refineries would require $1.12 billion (N342.72 billion) for a comprehensive turnaround.
Huge funds have been expended on seasonal Turn-Around Maintenance (TAM) without much result due ostensibly to the obsolete state of the facilities. Former NNPC Group Managing Director, Funsho Kupolokun, reportedly testified before the House of Representatives in 2007 that $1billion (N306 billion) was spent between 1999 and 2007 to repair the refineries.In 2013, former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, said $1.6 billion (N489 billion) was budgeted for the TAM of the refineries, adding that over 75 per cent of the spare parts maintenance in the Port Harcourt Refinery had arrived in the country. She added that original builders of the refinery had been paid $35 million for the TAM.
Alison-Madueke put the total amount to be expended on the Port Harcourt refinery at $147 million while the modernisation of the facility would cost the government $406 million.In 2015, the Group Executive Director, Refining and Petrochemicals of the NNPC, Ian Udoh, said the corporation opted to use local engineers at the cost of $550 million (N168 billion), spread across 18 months.
No provision was made under the 2017 budget for the reconstruction of the four refineries.Despite spending these huge resources, data from NNPC show that the combined average refining capacity utilisation of the refineries in 2013 remained at a low level of 22 per cent as against 21 per cent in 2012.
In 2014, the combined average refining capacity utilisation fell to14.4 per cent from 22 per cent in the previous year. In 2015, the combined refining capacity utilisation dropped further to 4.9 per cent against 14.4 per cent in the previous year.For the month of June 2017, the three refineries produced 222,585 metric tonnes (mt) of finished petroleum products out of 231,836MT of crude processed at a combined capacity utilisation of 12.73 per cent compared to 23.09 per cent combined capacity utilisation achieved in May.
Despite the low performance of the refineries, NNPC has already inaugurated a committee with the mandate to bring them to about 90 per cent capacity with a budget of $1.12 billion.Kachikwu had told journalists at the beginning of this administration that even if the current refineries were working on a 100 per cent basis, they would only be able to account for 20 million litres of petrol a day, which is about 50 per cent of the country’s consumption.
On the need to privatise the refineries, Pioneer Director, Centre for Gas, Refining and Petrochemicals, Institute of Petroleum Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Godwin Igwe, in an interview with The Guardian, described the decision as highly preposterous as past results of TAM suggest a careless use of such a huge capital investment.
Igwe, therefore, called for the privatisation of the refineries to protect the country from the wastage of funds.He stated: “One of the most difficult problems facing developing countries is their inability to service and maintain the few equipment bought from developed countries with their scarce foreign exchange reserves.