Hope rises as Port Harcourt refinery comes alive with all three units running simultaneously
It was cheers from Port Harcourt weekend when the country’s biggest refinery operated by the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) Limited activated all the processing units to redeem the promise to cutting Nigeria’s fuel import bills and enthroning a new phase of internal maintenance.
Sources in the refinery disclosed to The UNION that the 210, 000 barrels per day refinery came to life after its maintenance programme carried out by internal technical crew of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and some local contractors.
Start up capacity after restreaming is estimated at 60 percent but the plan is to gradually ramp up performance of the plants to 80 percent in the short to medium term.
The return of the refinery is expected to displace significant volume of petroleum products currently imported into the country, substantially cut subsidy bills on government, and also establish a sustainable model for use of in-country capacity for maintenance of all local refineries.
Our source who sounded jubilant said all the three processing units of the refinery including Crude Distillation Unit (CDU), the Vapour Distillation Unit (VDU) and the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU) all came up at the same time for the first time in 60 years.
The full streaming of the refinery, The UNION reports, would also enhance the commerciality of the company’s operations and enable it sustain regular maintenance, upgrade and modernization of the plants.
The company had hit a record net profit of N11.2 billion last December when it test-ran its rehabilitated distillation units for just 14 days.
The figure represents some N8.0 billion increase over the N3.2 billion of 250 percent posted by the company previous November.
The Refinery also has plans to harness business opportunities available to it through its commercial department to rake in additional N182 billion annually from non fuel industrial feedstock products.
Managing Director of PHRC, Mr. Bafred Enjugu, had earlier told The UNION in Port Harcourt that the maintenance programme would also modernize the plants by default since, according to him, brand new equipments from the original manufacturers were procured to replace obsolete ones.
He said the rehabilitation involved retrofitting the systems and units with modern state of the art parts and components that automatically modernize the plants.
It would be recalled that government had earlier approved that the original refinery builders, the Japanese Gas Company (JGC), should carry out the TAM on the refinery with a view of bringing it back to its nameplate capacity.
Dr. Enjugu said PHRC resorted to use of indigenous teams for the job JGC declined to honour the contract on security concerns. Dr. Enjugu said indigenous engineers and technical personnel were mobilized to deliver the job when the second rate contractors recommended by JGC, Technimont of Italy, advanced outrageous charges and declined to give performance guarantee.
The disappointment from the two expatriate contractors, he said, had provided opportunity for NNPC to think deeper and look inwards for the skills and knowledge requirements for the job in line with the spirit of the highly successful Nigerian Content policy in the petroleum industry.
With full motivation and high patriotic zeal, he said, the indigenous technical team and contractors pulled uncommon pan-industry synergy that exceeded expectations.
He pointed out that the team upgraded the technology of the plants and also recovered capacity.
The upgrade, according to him, came by default and deliberate design since, he explained, replacement of facility components entails simultaneous upgrade in line with advances in technology.
With the upgrade, the refinery may have recovered their full nameplate processing capacity and enhanced efficiency in production of premium transportation fuels.
The FCCU which is a combined cycle unit is the hallmark of refinery processing efficiency and accounts for high yield of the premium motor spirit, also called petrol, which is highly demanded in Nigeria for firing light transportation vehicles and micro electricity generating sets.
He pointed out that the feat achieved with the refinery rehabilitation and upgrade has positively indicated that the nation could profitably run commercial refinery operations.
The PHRC forms part of the three refineries of NNPC which collectively have the capacity to process some 445, 000 barrels of crude oil per day. However, the twin plants in PHRC host about half of the Nigerian domestic refining capacity, accounting for 47.8 percent of the total. And with the rehabilitation, PHRC which had Nigeria’s oldest refineries now operate the country’s newest refineries.
Dr. Enjugu pointed at the flagship role of the Port Harcourt refinery in meeting domestic fuel demand in the country and appealed to Nigerians to encourage the efforts of NNPC in the struggle to combat social vices impacting on the performance of the domestic refineries.
– Sopuruchi Onwuka