Work scope exposes rot in Port Harcourt Refinery

Sopuruchi Onwuka

The full range of work to which the Nigerian National Petroleum corporation (NNPC) committed Maire Technimont SPA of Italy indicate deep deterioration across the decades in which the processing plants and associated company facilities lay moribund.

GMD NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari

The contractor which has mobilized men and materials to site declared that integrity test earlier conducted on the two-plant refinery complex produced a broad work scope that transcends the refinery’s process plants to include revamp of ancillary facilities and infrastructure.

The job scope and required material inputs, The Oracle today reports, might have formed the primary components of the $1.8 billion contract value which sparked a spate of public outcry when the award was declared earlier in the year.

The parlous state of the nation’s three refineries located in Port Harcourt, Rivers State; Warri in Delta State; and Kaduna in Kaduna State; has remained a sour note in the operating capability of NNPC in managing the nation’s critical industry assets. The refineries have remained dilapidated for decades while funding for normal maintenance cycles for the plants became highly politicized.

From the 1980s when the military hijacked political power through transition to civilian rule in 1999 to the current administration which appointed new management for the NNPC, the refineries remained relics of past glory while the national fuel price subsidy regime which was originally hinged local process efficiency now becomes of the heaviest burdens on government’s annual budgets. Operating losses on the refineries also leave huge holes in the financial performance of NNPC.

Since the present management of the corporation started publishing its monthly operating and financial reports in line with its commitment to the global resource accountability standards, the refineries have relentlessly underperformed and constantly incurred huge operating losses.

Logically, the poor performance level at the refineries has been the major reason for the organized labour to oppose removal of fuel subsidy; and it appears that the government is doing everything possible, including involvement of civil society and labour groups in the monitoring the contract process in order to win their support for price deregulation.

All stakeholders in the project gathered at the Technical Kick-off Meeting held in Port Harcourt Refinery Complex, Alesa Eleme, where the representative of Maire Technimont SPA, Mr Masu Alberto, briefed them on the work scope and delivery time lines.

According to Mr Alberto, rehabilitation work had started in 2017 with integrity test and subsequent preliminary works conducted in 2019.

On the main process plants, he said the job would entail replacement of key process modules and components.

Former Managing Director of the refinery, Dr Bafred Enjugu, told The Oracle Today that the refinery had been proposed for spontaneous revamp and upgrade, explaining that new plant spare parts and modules would be used to achieve default upgrade.

He made it clear that it would be difficult to get the exact spare parts used in building the old refineries more than 50 years ago; adding that recourse to the original refinery builders was meant to achieve expansive retrofitting and spontaneous upgrade.

Mr Alberto stated later in Port Harcourt the revamp project would entail replacement key process components with new ones which, Dr Enjugu earlier explained, would spontaneously upgrade the plants.

Mr Alberto said Technimont would replace the refinery’s some pumps, turbines, boilers, blowers, tanks, s and drums among other items equipment. He also listed one expander and three compressor fans for changing.

Beyond the plants, he said, the company would also refurbish the technical building, replace the fire-fighting and deluge sprinkler systems, refurbish 24 offsite tanks, replace electrical equipment in substation, install primary earthing integration and new lighting system.

“We’re deploying a good number of engineers”, told NNPC officials and country stakeholders.

Meanwhile the group spokesman for NNPC, Dr. Kennie Obateru, said the corporation is committed to delivery of the refinery revamp programme on schedule and within budget. He acknowledged the weight of public expectation on the management of the corporation about the refineries and expressed the commitment of the management to deliver on its promises.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has kicked off construction work in the Port Harcourt Refinery rehabilitation project with a firm commitment not to fail Nigerians.

Dr. Kennie Obateru, who is the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the NNPC, quoted the Chief Operating Officer, Refineries & Petrochemicals, Engr. Mustapha Yakubu, as saying that the project would be delivered on schedule.

Managing Director of PHRC, Engr. Ahmed Dikko, said that all the process plants have been made hydrocarbon-free to enable the contractor carry out the rehabilitation work safely.

When the rehabilitation is complete the two plant refinery with combined capacity for 210,000 barrels of crude oil per day will only recovery 90 percent of the nameplate capacity or 189,000 barrels per day.

He hinted that the 2930 of the 3000 workers to be engaged in the project would be Nigerians, amplifying high Nigerian content value of the project and the potential to domicile significant part of the $1.5 billion project cost for in-country spend.

Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, who was represented at the meeting put the projected commissioning date for the refinery at about April 5, 2023, “when repairs would have been completed on the old refinery also known as Area 5.”

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