The Federal Government is to forge ahead with its plan of spending $1.5bn on the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery despite criticisms that had trailed the move.
Officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation stated on Friday that it had been the intention of government to revamp the unprofitable facility.
The Federal Executive Council had on Wednesday approved the plan by the FMPR to rehabilitate the Port Harcourt Refinery with $1.5bn.
The decision was taken at the weekly meeting of the council presided over by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, who announced this, stated that the rehabilitation would happen in three phases.
But the plan to spend $1.5bn on the facility came under intense criticisms by many Nigerians.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar faulted the $1.5bn approval and argued that budgeting the amount for the renovation of a refinery at a critical period of increased unemployment and inflation “would appear to be an unwise use of scarce funds.”
However, when contacted to know if the ministry would review its stance on the revamp of the refinery, following the widespread criticism that greeted the development, the FMPR said there had been no counter-directive to that effect.
The Deputy Director of Information, FMPR, Enefaa Bob-Manuel, said the petroleum minister had never rescinded his decision to forge ahead with the move.
“Has the minister said otherwise? He has not said otherwise on the information about which you called me to get my reaction,” Bob-Manuel stated.
Also, an official at NNPC, who preferred not to be named, said the plan to fix the refinery had been on for long and it would be improper to back down at this time when funds for its revamp had been approved despite opposition to it.
Why we’re still investing in refineries – NNPC
Meanwhile, the NNPC has said it is still investing in refineries because the country needs to monetise its huge hydrocarbon resource to create wealth and guarantee fuel supply security.
It explained that apart from the fact that Nigeria needs to exploit and refine its crude oil domestically, petrol and diesel-powered engines would still be around for some time, which would invariably sustain the market for petrol.
The Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mele Kyari, said these recently at a webinar with the theme ‘Decline and Fall? The crisis of the global fossil fuel industry and outlook for Nigeria’, jointly organised by the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa, Nigeria Natural Resource Charter and the Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Abuja.
Other guest speakers were the Programme Coordinator, Nigeria Natural Resource Charter, Ms Tengi George-Ikoli, and Energy Strategist, Carbon Tracker, Kingsmill Bond.
The NNPC GMD, who was represented at the webinar by the corporation’s Chief Operating Officer, Upstream, Mr Yemi Adetunji, stressed that Nigeria was committed to renewable energy but that it needed to monetise its crude oil deposit and use part of the proceeds to fund its renewable energy projects.
Responding to a question on Nigeria’s commitment to clean energy, despite hosting the soon-to-be-completed largest single-train refinery in the world, Dangote Refinery, the GMD said, “We have to monetise the hydrocarbon resource that we have, even while transitioning to cleaner fuels and renewable energy. We have to use what we have to create wealth to be able to fund some of those projects, and importantly move the Nigerian economy forward.
“Today, our target is 2.1 million barrels of oil per day. If you add the 650,000 bpd that the Dangote Refinery would process to what the NNPC can do, it comes to about one million barrels per day. We believe it is strategically fine for us to be able to refine at least one million barrels of crude oil in Nigeria per day.”
“That would create energy supply security that we are looking for, as well as create jobs and the economic activities that would come from having refineries working in Nigeria, in addition to the petrochemicals that would come from the various activities. We can also earn foreign exchange from exporting the balance that we have left.”
He added, “We have more gas than we have oil and we believe we would leverage that gas resource, which is a much cleaner fuel, to create economic benefits for the country. Nigeria currently has natural gas reserve of 203 trillion cubic feet, comprising of 57 per cent Non-Associated Gas and 43 per cent Associated Gas.
“We need to improve the use of LPG which would help us to reduce deforestation. We are also looking at autogas and Compressed Natural Gas as means of transportation to reduce dependence on petrol and diesel.
George-Ikoli also said the NNPC must seize the energy transition as a business opportunity to save itself and Nigeria from the dangerous dependence on oil, adding that its inefficient refineries were draining money.