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Dangote Refinery: Placing Nigeria Firmly on the Global Landscape

For decades, most advanced refineries and petrochemical plants globally have been coming online in China, Saudi Arabia and India. These include world-scale projects such as Reliance Industry’s Jamnagar Refinery in India; the Zhanjiang Refinery in China; the Yanbu Refinery in Saudi Arabia; and the Sadara Chemical Complex, also in Saudi Arabia.

But while Asia and the Middle East had been dominating the recent refinery project landscape, there are changes in the narratives as Dangote Petroleum Refinery is bringing in the best and biggest refinery equipment ever built in global refining history to ensure that Nigeria joins the league of biggest global refiners.

Dangote Petroleum Refinery is setting a pace in the global refining sector by exploring new technology in its choices for the biggest and best equipment in the history of global crude refining.

Dangote’s appetite for the best refinery equipment was showcased recently with the importation of the world’s largest Crude Oil Distillation Column, specially constructed to handle the 650,000 barrels-per-day single-train refinery located in Lekki Free Trade Zone in Lagos, Nigeria.

Due to its size, while loading the equipment on the vessel from China, it first had to be transported from the fabrication unit on a barge to a river port where a special RoRo vessel was hired.

The equipment had to be transported using Self Propelled Modular Transport. The vessel was also moored in a unique method called the Mediterranean moor, wherein the equipment was rolled in straight from the aft of the vessel.

With the latest development, the Dangote Petroleum Refinery project is in the process of upstaging other recent high-profile projects, such as the majority of hydrocarbon processing plants previously commissioned in the more developed regions of the world.

Earlier this year, the company installed the biggest Residual Fluid Catalytic Cracker (RFCC) ever known in the global refining sector; an attestation of its desire to ensure that Nigeria becomes a petroleum refining hub in Africa.

Supposedly one of the most important conversion processes used in petroleum refineries, Dangote Petroleum Refinery is sparing no expense to implement the latest processing, analytical, automation, and environmental technologies at the new single-stream refinery.

The refinery is being designed to accommodate multiple grades of domestic and foreign crude (including shale oil) and process these into high-quality gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and aviation fuels that meet Euro V emissions specifications, plus polypropylene. It will include a crude distillation unit, single-train residual fluid catalytic cracking unit, diesel hydro-treating unit, continuous catalyst regeneration unit, alkylation unit, and a polypropylene unit.

Speaking during arrival of the vessel, which conveyed the Crude Distillation Column to Dangote jetty, Head, Maritime and Port Infrastructure of Dangote, Capt. Rajen Sachar, told the newsmen that the equipment is the biggest single-train facility used for refining crude

According to him, the refinery equipment, which was manufactured by Sinopec in China, is the primary unit processor of crude oil into fuels.

He said the equipment was capable of refining 650,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) and added that the refinery was designed to be Africa’s largest, with potential to transform the country from an importer of fuel to a net exporter.

He said the technology is significant to Nigeria and Dangote Petroleum Refinery, because “this is the largest crude oil processor in the world”. He said this technology would bring multiplier effect positive to the company and Nigeria through supply to the huge market.

Sachar noted that the project is also expected to generate over 9,500 direct and 25,000 indirect jobs. “The Crude Distillation Column is the largest in terms of distilling capacity which is 650 thousand barrels per stream day. Presently, this is the world’s largest single train refining Column. It is the largest diameter, longest length and the heaviest single-unit equipment in domestic export equipment. It will be installed in the world’s largest single-series refinery – the 32.5 million tonnes/year Dangote Refinery in Nigeria”, he added.

He said equipment was shipped through vessel from China to avoid been damaged and also to avoid traffic congestion if using roads from Apapa.

Speaking on the capacity of Dangote jetty, he said: “The basis of the design of Jetty was made, considering the heaviest and the longest cargoes. Therefore, the jetty was built with a permissible load density of 15 T/m2, which will enable it to handle vessels of up to 160m. The Jetty is also designed with the capacity of carrying out both the Roll-On and Roll-Off, as well as Lift-On/ Lift-Off operations.”

Dwelling on the capacity of the refinery, Group Executive Director, Strategy, Capital Projects & Portfolio Development, Dangote Industries Limited, Mr. Devakumar Edwin stated that the refinery is being designed to be the largest single train refinery in the world.

According to Edwin, “It is the largest single train refinery in the world. It is about 50% larger than the largest refinery and if you see the plot plan and the design, we have made provision for doubling this capacity. Petroleum refineries globally are all tuned to maximise the production of diesel because diesel is the largest produced commodity. If you go to US, Europe, India, Singapore and the Nigerian refineries too, they are all tuned to maximise diesel production, but Nigeria is unique because the consumption of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) is the maximum in Nigeria, compared to even diesel.

“So, we took a unique approach. This refinery should be designed to maximise gasoline and not diesel; that’s one of the first things we focused on. That’s why this refinery can meet the entire gasoline requirements of Nigerians and still have a bit of surplus to export. Then, we adopted the normal three pillars we use in any business we enter; the first is, go for the latest technology with focus on minimising the cost of production because of the technology involved, and as part of the process we went for a very complex refinery because for every barrel of crude that goes in, we want to extract the maximum value from it. So, that is why we are maximising by having an integrated petrochemical complex, to maximise the gasoline which is the highest in demand. So, everything will be high-value product; that’s our primary focus”, he added.

Apart from making Nigeria a refined product exporting country, the refinery is expected to attract more foreign investors to the country.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, who affirmed the ability of Dangote Petroleum Refinery to boost foreign direct investment, said the completion would be a symbol of the Nigerian success story.

Sylva said it was necessary to support the Dangote Refinery project to ensure its successful completion to realise the Federal Government’s aspiration of reversing the ugly trend of fuel importation.

He said: “This is a very heart-warming moment for all of us as Nigerians. There is no way a project of this magnitude will be going on and government will not be interested. Anywhere in the world, if a citizen of a country has committed so much money into investing in this kind of massive project, government must show interest.

“I must say now that Dangote Group has turned this project to the story of all of us, we must all support this project to succeed, because the success of this project signals a lot. Of course, I am sure that the whole world is looking at the success of this project. Investors all over the world will look at the success of this project and will come to Nigeria to at least also enjoy the benefit of investing here. So, we are actually here to assure you, Dangote Group, that as a government, as NNPC, we will support this project as much as we can. You have definitely done very well,” the minister added recently during a tour of the project.

said the Dangote Petroleum Refinery and Petrochemical complex was a testament that the country possesses an enabling environment for businesses to thrive, and added that the success of the project would boost investor confidence in the country’s oil and gas projects.