By Udeme Akpan & Emem Idio
THE construction of Nigeria’s $12 billion Azikel refinery has started at Obunagh Gbarain, Bayelsa state, thus raising hope for increased domestic petroleum products supply in the nation.
Investigations by Vanguard showed that the construction work was nearing completion in the Outside Battery Limit, OSBL which comprises roads, fencing, administrative buildings, the Inside Battery Limit, ISBL and technical components.
In an interview with Vanguard, the Media Assistant to the Azikel Group chairman, Mr. Austin Ebipade, disclosed that work has reached 75 per cent completion, adding that the takeoff date remains sacrosanct.
He said: ”A few months ago, the administrative buildings and other buildings were at the foundation level but as we speak, the buildings are 85 per cent completed; it’s only the finishing that is remaining.
“Piling work is ongoing too. There are over 200 piling spots here. The Inside Battery Limit, ISBL, which include storage facilities, crude processing units, distribution units among others are what is left to be installed anytime soon.
“With the pace at which we are going, our dream of completing the refinery is taking shape and by December, 2018, we tentatively hope to begin production. However in the worst scenario, if per adventure we can’t roll out our products by December, then in the first quarter of 2019, we will begin.”
Meanwhile, the company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, on gas supply to the plant.
On completion, the refinery would provide additional 12,000 barrels per day, bpd to Nigeria’s current 445, 000 bpd capacity.
The President of Azikel Group, Dr Eruani Azibapu, had disclosed at the foundation laying ceremony of the refinery that: ”Azikel Petroleum was awarded the licence for a private refinery by President Mohammadu Buhari Administration. We are extremely grateful and thankful to President Mohammadu Buhari for considering us qualified and granting us the licence to participate in the inaugural private refineries investment in Nigeria.
”Our name plate licence is 12,000 barrel per stream day (BPSD) hydro-skimming refinery. The gesture was in line with the federal government policy to liberalize the petroleum sector by allowing the establishment of private refineries to participate in the downstream sector.
”This Federal Government initiative when fully crystalised by all licenses will largely support the nation’s refining capacity to end fuel scarcity, short supply, price hike and importation into the country and hopefully position Nigeria as a net exporter of refined product in the near future.”
He had stated: ”the development of the refinery is into two aspects; Outside Battery Limit (OSBL). This is clearing of the virgin swamp forest, de-stumping, sand filling to reclaim and regenerate the land, the concrete perimeter fencing, internal roads, security building, on-going administrative, terminal operational building, loading gantry, piling and construction/ installation of storage tank/pilling and other ancillary support facilities. We have also completed offsite 150 unit apartments of residential accommodation for staff. We have achieved a near 45 percent completion of the OSBL.
”Inside Battery Limit (ISBL): This is the engineering procurement and fabrication of the process modules or the core refinery engine. This portion of the project is being handled offshore in the United States by our contracting and technical partners. This stage had also attained advanced stage of near 65 percent completion,” he said.
He also stated that the project has many partners, including Basic Equipment USA, MUC Oil and Gas, Middle East, Geo-Technical Survey, Oil Project, USA, Axens Engineering, DSC Dredgers and JLS Capital, adding that Azikel Refinery would be the first conversion green-field refinery built in Nigeria since the mid-70s, and it would enjoy operational advantages in the competitive oil sector.
“We are running with the baton to the finishing line, and I am most confident that we will get there, we will be the first ever indigenous refinery to dispense refined petroleum product to Nigerians,” he said.
The Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Baru Maikanti had noted that: “of the initial refinery licenses granted by President Mohammadu Buhari, Azikel Refinery is in the fore-front on delivery of the refinery, having achieved task in the Phase I, II and III and a record performance of attaining 65 per cent completion.”
Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo who performed the foundation laying had alluded that he doubted the seriousness of the project at the initial stage as none of the 18 private refineries licence granted in his tenure moved to site.
He had described President Buhari to be very lucky to have committed persons, particularly Dr Eruani among the beneficiaries of his licencing round who is irrevocably committed to building and operating the first private modular hydro-skimming refinery and urged other Nigerians who are licenced to emulate Eruani.