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Refinery news roundup: Africa incidents, planned work in focus

Across Africa, new launches and upgrades remain in focus while news is emerging of planned works and unplanned outages.

–South Africa’s largest refinery Sapref has entered its summer maintenance period, which runs from May 25 to July 13, the company said. The company did not specify which units are under maintenance.

–Sonara’s Limbe refinery in Cameroon has shut down after an explosion at one of its units at the end of May, with force majeure declared on its operations, the refiner said in a statement. “We are informing you of an explosion followed by a serious fire in our production units at 21:55 local time on May 31 which led to damages and the interruption of production in all our units for an undetermined time period,” the refiner said in a letter dated June 1, addressed to its customers. “As a consequence, we are declaring force majeure and the suspension of all our contractual commitments,” Sonara said, adding that customers would be informed when the force majeure ends. The refinery increased its capacity to 72,000 b/d from 45,000 b/d through an upgrade program, which involved the construction of a vacuum distillation unit, a catalytic reformer and a power plant.

–Senegal’s sole refinery, located in Dakar, has halted production since late May due to a lack of crude, industry and trading sources said. The refinery is unable to process any crude despite having a crude cargo at the port of Dakar, sources added. Senegalese media reported the Suezmax tanker Max Jacob has been waiting to discharge its 950,917-barrel crude cargo since May 5. The tanker loaded a cargo of Nigerian crude Erha at the end of April before arriving in Dakar on May 5, according to Platts trade flow software cFlow. SAR put out a statement assuring the public that there would be no fuel shortages. The Dakar refinery has plans to increase capacity to 1.5 million mt/year by the end of 2019.

–Nigeria’s four refineries are operating at just 5.55% of their combined nameplate capacity of around 445,000 b/d, according to data released in late May by Nigerian National Petroleum Corp, underlining that the oil-rich nation still relies heavily on imports for its fuel needs. The operating capacity is the highest that the four refineries have reached in six months, the NNPC data show. “The lower operational performance recorded is attributed to the ongoing revamping of the refineries which is expected to further enhance capacity utilization when completed,” NNPC said. Nigeria’s refineries, which include the northern Kaduna refinery and two plants located in Port Harcourt, have not operated beyond a quarter of their nameplate capacity for some time, mainly due to sabotage attacks on pipelines carrying crude to the plants as well as technical problems after years of neglect. NNPC announced in March that it had secured the service of Italy’s Maire Tecnimont to handle the overhaul of the 210,000 b/d Port Harcourt refinery complex, with oil major Eni appointed as technical adviser.

–Tunisia’s STIR is expected to remain offline at least until around October, and has been halted since Q4 2018, trading sources said.

–Sudan’s Khartoum refinery is running at around 80% capacity due to a lack of crude, a source from the Khartoum Refinery Company said. The plant’s second crude distillation unit with 40,000 b/d capacity would go on maintenance for at least a month in October this year. Last year, CDU 1 was down for maintenance as repair work at the KRC site is being carried out in several stages to limit the reduction in fuel supplied to the local market at any one time. Prior to this the refinery last underwent maintenance in March 2016 and repair works after that have since been delayed due to fears of a fuel crisis as well as a weakening economy, particularly as the country has previously faced severe fuel shortages when the refinery has been down. The first 50,000 b/d CDU processes the country’s main crude export grade, Nile Blend, while the 40,000 b/d CDU uses a heavy and acidic domestic crude called Heavy Fula, the source added. This plant is the country’s only functioning refinery after the Port Sudan refinery closed in 2013 and was decommissioned.

–The crude distillation unit at Ghana’s sole oil refinery Tema remains offline due to a lack of crude but the plant’s fluid catalytic cracker continues to operate, a source close to the matter said in mid March. “There’s no feedstock for the CDU at the moment… but efforts are being made to secure some feedstock soon,” the source said. “The FCC is working currently… [it] is processing the atmospheric residue from the crude oil supplied late last year,” he added. The CDU has been shut since early January this year. Prior to the recent shutdown, the plant was running at 28,000 b/d and was processing Nigerian crude, the source said. The refinery restarted in mid-December after having been out of action for similar reasons in the autumn and summer. It has been hit by several issues over the past few years, experiencing intermittent outages at its CDU and FCC units.

–Operations at Libya’s Zawiya refinery are running with “difficulty” due to the closure of the 350,000 b/d Sharara field, according to the chairman of state-owned National Oil Corp. “We don’t want to ask government for more importation for fuel so we have to operate Zawiya and we are bringing oil from other locations like Mellitah, Sarir and Mesla [fields]…so we mix lots of crude,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said. The refinery normally runs on Sharara crude but the field has been shut in since December 8. Sources said that for most of the last year the plant was running at around 50% capacity with only one of the distillation units running actively.

–Libya’s National Oil Corp. has initiated talks with partners to restart Ras Lanuf but faces tough negotiations, making plans for a restart this year unlikely. The refinery was shut in 2013.

–Italy’s Kinetics Technology has been awarded a contract to build a fluid catalytic cracker at Angola’s sole oil refinery in Luanda, Sonangol Chairman Sebastiao Pai Gaspar Martins said. Martins told the Angola Oil and Gas conference Kinetics Technology was chosen through a tender process and the unit would take around two and half years to complete. Sonangol is working with Eni for the refurbishment of the Luanda plant. The construction of the fluid catalytic cracker at the Luanda refinery will enable it to produce 1,200 mt/day of gasoline, up from current output of 380 mt/day. The unit is expected to come online mid-2021.

–Privately owned Sahara Group is hoping to buy a 70% stake in state-owned Indeni refinery in Zambia, its executive director said. Tope Shonubi, speaking on the sidelines of the African Refiners Association conference in Cape Town, in March 2019, said he hoped to conclude the deal with Zambian government in the next one or two months. The government in late 2017 started the process to sell its sole oil refinery to private investors. Shonubi said the Indeni refinery was running at around 50% capacity and when the deal was finalized he planned to build a hydrocracker at the plant.

–The expansion program at Egypt’s state-owned Middle East Oil Refinery (Midor) near Alexandria, is on track for 2022, and the refinery is running close to producing full rates of 100,000 b/d, an official from the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation said. “MIDOR is running at full rates most of the time,” said Walid Gebril, the quality control general manager at EGPC, adding that the upgrade, which will push capacity to 160,000 b/d in three years, was progressing well. Once the revamp is complete, the refinery will produce Euro 5 specification refined products. Gebril also said EGPC was in the midst of expanding other refineries, including the upgrade of Assiut by the Nile in Middle Egypt, which was expected to be complete by April 2020. The upgrade at Assiut includes the installation of 880,000 mt/year continuous catalytic reforming and isomerization complex, a 400,000 mt/year vapor recovery unit and 2.3 million mt/year hydrocracker.

–Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. is still in talks with prospective financiers to carry out a major overhaul of its four ailing refineries — two in Port Harcourt and one each in Kaduna and Warri — aimed at substantially increasing local product supply and ending imports.

–Cote d’Ivoire’s SIR has secured a Eur577 million ($657 million) debt financing deal from Africa Finance Corporation, or AFC, which will help fund the much-needed upgrade of the refinery. A senior official from SIR had previously said that once its debt financing deal was finalized it would focus on meeting the lower sulfur standards set by the African Refiners Association by 2025.

–The Republic of Congo’s refinery in Pointe Noire is planning to build a fluid catalytic cracker before 2022.

–Senegal’s Dakar refinery is running at full capacity of 1.2 million mt/year. The refinery planned to increase capacity to 1.5 million mt/year.

–Uganda is pushing back the completion of its Albertine Graben refinery by a year to 2024, following delays in reaching an agreement on the activities necessary for a final investment decision, Uganda Refinery Holding Company general manager Michael Mugerwa said. “We are negotiating on the remaining activities on the refinery project to reach FID next year and complete the refinery by 2024,” Mugerwa said, adding that the refinery was on course and pre-FID activities were being finalized to move the project onto the construction phase. Under the project framework agreement, Albertine Graben Refinery Consortium was to develop and propose a final refinery configuration that would provide the best technical and economic results for government approval as the project moves toward a FID. The final refinery configuration has yet to be approved by the government.

–Angola’s state-owned Sonangol and the United Shine consortium have signed an agreement for the construction of a “high conversion” refinery in Cabinda province, Sonangol chairman Sebastiao Pai Gaspar Martins said. Speaking at the Angola Oil and Gas conference, Martins said the project, which includes a 60,000 b/d refinery, is part of the company’s aim to reduce its fuel imports.

–Sonaref’s Joaquim de Sousa Fernandes, chairman of the executive council, said that the Lobito refinery in Angola is aimed for completion in 2025. Sonaref is talking with a group of companies to set up a joint venture. The construction of the Lobito refinery has been frozen due to high costs, according to a report by Angola news agency ANGOP. Sonangol has been under pressure to build a new refinery as it heavily depends on imports for its fuel requirements, but it canceled the Lobito project in 2016. It has indicated plans for building Lobito have been revived, for a 200,000 b/d plant.

–Egyptian Refining Co. will start up its long-delayed new refinery at Mostorod, near Cairo, in 2019, according to TradeArabia News Service, quoting Qalaa Holdings’ chairman Ahmed Heikal. It was previously expected to start in 2018. Trial runs took place in the summer of 2018 as the refinery was hooked up to electricity and gas supplies, according to earlier reports. First planned in 2007, the $3.7 billion project was meant to come on stream at the end of 2016 but faced lengthy delays to its construction due to Egypt’s political instability since the revolution in 2011.

–Safinat, the main investor and implementer of the Bentiu refinery project in South Sudan, said it “has strong intentions” to recommission the modular refinery in 2019, a company source said. The refinery, with 7,000 b/d initial capacity, which is constructed in the Unity oil field, will produce diesel and heavy fuel oil, though subsequently there are plans to increase capacity to 25,000 b/d and include production of all range of light products depending “on the successful operation of the modular refinery.” Its construction started in August 2013 and in 2014 pre-commissioning and production started, although it was subsequently damaged during military action. Restoration works on the site started in December 2018 but they are depending upon assistance by the government for minimizing risks. South Sudan officials commented earlier that they expected the refinery to be operational in 2019.

–Nigeria’s Dangote refinery project outside Lagos is beginning to the install key refining units following delivery earlier in January, sources close to the matter said. “Work on our refinery is progressing to schedule. We have just completed initial civil works and have commenced the installation of the units,” a source said. “The reactor, regenerator and [fluid catalytic cracker] have been delivered this month. Commissioning still has quite some time to come,” another source working on the project said. The refinery is expected to start operations in 2022.

–A contract to build Algeria’s new Hassi Messaoud refinery has not yet been awarded, according to a source close to the company. Algeria has scaled back plans to expand its downstream sector rapidly, dropping plans to build five new 5 million mt/year refineries, and pushing ahead with only two new projects, at Hassi Messaoud and Tiaret.

–Russian state-owned exploration company Rosgeologia is considering building the Red Sea Coast refinery in Port Sudan, which would supply landlocked countries in Africa, according to media reports. Sudan had begun discussions to develop a 200,000 b/d refinery on its Red Sea coast. The project’s timeline has not yet been disclosed. The only refinery currently operating in the country is the Khartoum, after the Port Sudan refinery closed in 2013 and was decommissioned.

–Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. said in August 2018 that it plans to establish two condensate refineries with a combined capacity of 200,000 b/d.

–Nigeria has reached an agreement with neighbor Niger to build an oil refinery in a border town between Niger and Katsina state in northern Nigeria.

–Kenya is hoping to decide soon on the location for a new refinery in either Lamu or Mombasa.

–Ghana’s ministry of energy is in the process of submitting a proposal to build a new refinery in Tema. It will replace the 45,000 b/d Tema Oil Refinery. Separately, the government had set its sights on building a 150,000 b/d refinery in Takoradi.