By Adedapo Adesanya
Imo State-based 5,000 barrels per day Waltersmith modular refinery looks set to provide 500,000 oil downstream sector jobs, according to the federal government.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr Timpre Sylva, while speaking at the official launch of the refinery, said this will reduce the rate of unemployment in the country.
He also stated that the project is part of efforts to gradually reduce the importation of petroleum products into the country with the support of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
Waltersmith’s refinery, perhaps the first to commercially take-off in the country, is part of Nigeria’s efforts to reduce costs associated with fuel importation; augment local refining capacity of petroleum derivatives; establish Nigeria as a regional refining hub; and spur direct and indirect job creation through the downstream industry.
With a crude oil storage capacity of 60,000 barrels, Waltersmith modular refinery at Ibigwe Field, Ohaji Egbema council area of Imo State is expected to produce approximately 271 million litres of refined petroleum products annually, including diesel (AGO), kerosene (DPK), heavy fuel oil (HFO) and naphtha.
This first 5,000 barrels per day module will later be followed by 25,000 barrels per day and 20,000 barrels per day modules, which will enable the production of petrol, aviation fuel (Jet A1) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
Waltersmith Petroman Oil Limited had signed an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract in June 2018 with Houston-based VFuels V-fuels and Lambert Electromec. Construction of the modular refinery began in October of the same year and delivered in less than 24 months. The official commissioning earlier planned for May this year was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 health protocols.
At the commissioning yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the NNPC and DPR to provide crude supplies to Waltersmith and other modular refineries in the country to enable them to operate optimally.
Mr Buhari equally directed all other relevant agencies in the nation’s oil industry to ensure they do not starve the modular refineries of all their required resources, including condensate, to operate.
According to him, modular refineries represent four key policy roadmaps rolled out by his administration in 2019 to reduce importation of petroleum products. He expressed delight to commission the refinery, describing it as the largest modular refinery in Nigeria to date.
He said the refinery forms an important part of the economic reform which the country is currently undergoing, saying that the refining plant had already created thousands of direct and indirect jobs in the downstream subsector.
Also speaking at the event, the chairman of Waltersmith Group, Mr Abdulrazaq Isa, stated that, “The first module being commissioned today is 5,000 barrels per day, BPD, refining capacity. We are looking at 50,000 barrels per day refining capacity that will come with the planned additional two modules; 25,000 barrels per day and 20,000 barrels per day refining capacity respectively, which will then add PMS, aviation fuel and LPG to the product slates.”
On his part, the Governor of Imo State, Mr Hope Uzodinma, appealed to the federal government “not to kill this refinery by starving it of raw materials.” He said his administration would do everything within his powers to protect the investment.
It was gathered that the bulk of crude oil supply for this refinery would come from Waltersmith’s upstream business with backup from Oil Mining Lease (OML) 53 (Ohaji South) Seplat/NNPC Joint Venture (JV), third party crude currently processed at Waltersmith Ibigwe Flowstation and additionally from the 2020 Marginal Fields Bid Round for a nearby asset.
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