Forex crisis threatens modular refineries N25bn daily crude input


Refinery-2Modular refineries in Nigeria are currently facing the threat of shutting down operations following their inability to access foreign exchange for the purchase of crude oil, a commodity priced in United States dollars.

Nigeria has 25 licenced modular refineries with a combined capacity of producing 200,000 barrels of crude oil daily.

Although not all of the plants are currently operational, it was gathered that the functional ones were increasingly finding it difficult to purchase crude due to the worsening foreign exchange crisis in the country.

Brent, the global benchmark for crude, traded at about $80/barrel on Sunday and had remained within that range for months.

With an estimated capacity of 200,000bpd, the modular refineries, if fully operational, would refine about $16m (or N25.14bn if Thursday’s  official closing rate of N1,571/dollar is used.”

Annually, it means the modular refineries has capacity for about 73 million barrels annually, representing about $5.84bn worth of crude oil.

But the facilities, which produce Automotive Gas Oil, popularly called diesel, Dual Purpose Kerosene or kerosene, naphtha and black oil, are now finding it hard to make the refined products available to oil marketers for distribution to consumers.

They explained that the scarcity of dollars had made it almost impossible for operators to purchase crude oil, as the modular refinery players and oil marketers demanded for the sale of crude oil in naira from the Federal Government.

The modular refinery operators, who spoke under the aegis of Crude Oil Refinery Owners Association of Nigeria, also lamented that the Federal Government had not been able to keep its part of the bargain with respect to the provision of feedstock to local crude oil refiners.

Speaking with our correspondent on the matter, the Publicity Secretary, Crude Oil Refinery Owners Association of Nigeria, Eche Idoko, stated that modular refineries may close shop if nothing is done to ameliorate the situation.

CORAN is a registered association of modular and conventional refinery companies in Nigeria, while  modular refineries are simplified refineries that require significantly less capital investment than traditional full-scale refineries.

Idoko said, “The purchase of crude oil in dollars is currently the major challenge to modular refineries. We buy crude in dollars and sell our refined products in naira, and this is a major challenge. And apart from that, where do you get the dollars to pay for the crude?

“You heard the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria crying out recently about the dollar saga. We have requested that crude oil be sold to us in naira. And when you do this, you ease the pressure on the naira and this will make our diesel cheaper.

“It will encourage more investors to build and patronise the local refineries. If you take petroleum products off the foreign exchange market, you would have helped the naira by 60 per cent.”

Asked whether the inability of modular refineries to source dollars for crude oil purchase was slowing down production at the plants, Idoko replied, “Yes. We’ve not been able to get enough crude and from the little that we see, we’ve not been able to get forex to buy them.”

On whether this posed a threat to the survival of the plants, the spokesperson of the group said, “Exactly, it is a threat to our existence and it also opens the country to the volatility in the international market.”

Although the association could not state the estimated volume of crude refined by modular refineries in Nigeria, it stated that operators in the sector could refine about 200,000 barrels daily if all of them were operating.

Idoko said, “Right now, I don’t have the actual volume of crude that modular refineries refine annually. However, it is important to state that what each refinery produces in a month is dependent on the amount of crude they are able to get.

“The government has not been able to fulfill its own side of the obligation by providing 60 per cent of the crude required by modular refineries, as captured in the Petroleum Industry Act. So a lot of modular refineries are performing below capacity.

“For instance, OPAC has a 10,000 barrels per day installed capacity, but the most they have been able to refine is like 3,000 to 4,000bpd. The Edo refinery has 1,000bpd, but sometimes they do just 500bpd. Aradel and Waltersmith are the ones that refine as much as 70 and 80 per cent of their capacities because they have their own marginal fields.

“Waltersmith has a capacity of 5,000bpd, while Aradel has 10,000bpd refining capacity. However, if all the modular refineries come onstream, all those that have been licensed so far, our crude demand would be about 150,000bpd and 200,000bpd.”

Nigeria currently has 25 licensed modular refineries. Five of them are operating and producing diesel, kerosene, black oil and naphtha. About 10 are under various stages of completion, while the others have received licences to establish.

Officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum could not be reached to tell whether the government would consider selling crude to the modular refineries in naira, as they had yet to respond to enquiries up till when this report was filed.

However, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri, recently confirmed the lack of crude to domestic refiners, noting that Nigeria’s inability to meet its crude oil production quota approved by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries was the major limiting factor.

Lokpobiri, however, stated that the government was working hard to meet the production quota in order to supply crude oil to local refiners as stipulated in the Petroleum Industry Act.

Meanwhile, Idoko noted that “the current NNPC boss, petroleum minister and NUPRC have all talked about the possibility of having some arrangements with us in naira. But that hasn’t been implemented. Our people still source crude from domestic producers in dollars.

“We buy crude in dollars and sell our refined products in naira. So it is not that we earn dollar proceeds. Our earnings from the sale of diesel, kerosene and black oil is in naira.

“The only dollar component is the sale of naphtha, but most of our refineries won’t sell naphtha, they put it back into the system and reproduce kerosene or diesel. So we still have to visit the Central Bank of Nigeria or domestic dollar market to source our dollars.”

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