1151 days after Kachikwu’s boast to fix re­finer­ies, PHRC stays dead

Down for sev­eral months Grap­pling with TAM, last done 18 years ago


AFTER SEV­ERAL CLAIMS OF A pur­ported turn around main­te­nance (TAM) at Nige­ria’s four re­finer­ies by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in­clud­ing ju­nior pe­tro­leum min­is­ter, Ibe Kachikwu, busi­ness a.m. has found the claims to be bo­gus, at least in one of the re­finer­ies in which an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was car­ried out in the last one week. The Port Harcourt Re­fin­ery and Petro­chem­i­cal Com­pany has been down for sev­eral months with many staff choos­ing the harsher word, DEAD, to de­scribe the state it is cur­rently in.

Con­sumed by the easy-way street of im­port­ing pe­tro­leum prod­ucts from dif­fer­ent parts of the world, in­clud­ing from coun­tries with­out crude oil, Nige­rian Na­tional Pe­tro­leum Cor­po­ra­tion ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment, rep­re­sent­ing gov­ern­ment, re­cently seized the klieg lights an­nounc­ing the sign­ing of crude for prod­ucts swap deal with Bri­tish Pe­tro­leum, while its re­finer­ies re­main in co­matose. That sign­ing was hap­pen­ing three and a half years into a regime that started with then group manag­ing direc­tor of the NNPC (now ju­nior pe­tro­leum min­is­ter) Kachiukwu be­ing bullish and pranc­ing from one re­fin­ery to the other promis­ing they would be fixed within months.

In Septem­ber 2015 dur­ing a visit to the Kaduna re­fin­ery as NNPC group manag­ing direc­tor, an over ex­u­ber­ant and boast­ful Kachikwu told staff that the four re­finer­ies, namely the two in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna, must work within 90 days.

“We must make all the FCCUs (Fluid Cat­alytic Crack­ing Units) and the fuel sec­tions to work ef­fi­ciently in the next three months so that Nige­ri­ans will con­tinue to en­joy un­in­ter­rupted sup­ply of pe­tro­leum prod­ucts,” he had said at the time.

Speak­ing specif­i­cally on the Kaduna re­fin­ery he was vis­it­ing at the time Kachikwu said: “You will soon have a dif­fer­ent com­pany.

We must leave no stone un- turned in our de­ter­mi­na­tion to put the plant on the path of prof­itabil­ity. We must make the com­pany a suc­cess,” he riled up the staff and man­age­ment after he had car­ried out a tour of the re­fin­ery.

As it has been in Kaduna since that fa­mous boast by the petro- leum lawyer, so has it been in Port Harcourt since the fa­mous ut­ter­ing by the then GMD of the NNPC.

Our in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that Nige­ri­ans, es­pe­cially in the south- south and south-east­ern parts are al­ready brac­ing them­selves up for a yule­tide that might yet be marred by short­ages in pe­tro­leum sup­ply, along with its at­ten­dant conse- quences, in­clud­ing the trig­ger­ing of a trans­porta­tion cri­sis and rise in prices of con­sum­able.

busi­ness a.m. find­ings showed that the Port Harcourt Petro­chemi- cal and Re­fin­ing Com­pany, with a com­bined re­fin­ing ca­pac­ity of 210,000 bar­rels per stream day (bpsd), is cur­rently ly­ing co­matose, with slim chances of re­sum­ing pro- duc­tion any time soon.

One re­fin­ing en­gi­neer told our cor­re­spon­dent fleet­ingly that they were plan­ning to re­sume re­fin­ing by De­cem­ber.

PHRC ac­counts for 47 per cent of Nige­ria’s na­tional re­fin­ing ca­pac­ity. Warri Re­fin­ing and Petro­chem­i­cals Com­pany (WRPC) and Kaduna Re­fin­ing and Petro­chem­i­cals Com- pany (KPRC) com­bine to make up the re­main­ing 53 per cent.

busi­ness a.m. found out at the re­fin­ery com­plex that no ma­chine was steam­ing.

The en­tire re­fin­ery com­plex was in dead si­lence. Nei­ther the crude dis­til­la­tion unit (CDU) nor the fluid cat­alytic crack­ing unit (FCCU) showed that any ac­tion had taken place in them in about six months. Many sec­tions re­vealed to­tal break­down, with pipelines and units all worn-out, run­down and rust due to overuse with­out any form of re­place­ment.

busi­ness a.m. also found that the clear lack of po­lit­i­cal will by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to ap­prove any form of turn-around main­te­nance (TAM) on the re­fin­ery which has kept things at dizzy­ing pace.

The fa­cil­ity’s man­age­ment has yet to re­ceive ap­proval of a TAM from the NNPC since the on­set of the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion, show­ing a con­tin­u­a­tion of past mis­man­age­ment and in­ef­fi­cien­cies.

Engi­neers on ground say they know what to do to get the re­fin­ery work­ing, but they must wait for the PHRC man­age­ment to ask them to do so. At the same time, PHRC must re­ceive from NNPC head­quar­ters a go-ahead or­der.

Sadly, the last TAM on the re­fin­ery was done some 18 years ago – in year 2000.

Our cor­re­spon­dent was told that a turn­around main­te­nance must take place at such a high tem­per­a­ture prone re­fin­ing fa­cil­ity ev­ery two years.

The cause be­ing that frac­tions and units re­ceive very high tem­per­a­ture of about 398°C, which causes them to crack up grad­u­ally un­til they even­tu­ally wear down.

But here, the re­fin­ery is in ar­rears of sup­posed nine turn­around main­te­nances (TAMs).

The re­fin­ery – a twin re­fin­ing com­plex was built in 1965 with a 35,000bpsd re­fin­ing ca­pac­ity by a con­sor­tium of Bri­tish Pe­tro­leum and Shell – was later up­graded to a 60,000bpsd by NNPC in 1972. In 1989, a new com­plex with 150,000bpsd was com­mis­sioned by the NNPC, with the run­ning of the two re­finer­ies brought un­der a sin­gle man­age­ment.

One en­gi­neer told busi­ness a.m. that the en­tire Nige­rian re­finer­ies stand the risk of be­ing eclipsed from re­fin­ing con­tention by the time Dangote’s 650,000bpsd re­fin­ing be­he­moth comes on stream by 2019–2020.

“We would be in for a hard pe­riod with Dangote Re­fin­ery, be­cause our en­tire in­stalled re­fin­ing ca­pac­ity of 445,000bpsd would be swal­lowed up in Dangote’s huge 650,000bpsd ca­pac­ity,” the en­gi­neer told our cor­re­spon­dent.

The PHRC’s manag­ing direc­tor, Abba Bukar could not re­ally com­ment on the state of decay at the re­fin­ery. All he said was “we are a sub­sidiary of the NNPC; most com­ments on is­sues of oper­a­tions and pol­icy de­ci­sion are done by our head­quar­ters.”

In­ci­den­tally Bukar only re­sumed as new MD of PHRC a month ago, com­ing from Kaduna re­fin­ery, an­other fa­cil­ity suf­fer­ing from mis-

Ibe Kachikwu (left), Nige­ria’s ju­nior pe­tro­leum min­is­ter, then as group manag­ing direc­tor of NNPC, dur­ing the fa­mous Septem­ber 2015 visit to Kaduna re­fin­ery where he boasted that the coun­try’s four re­finer­ies would be fixed in 90 days.

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