Bright orange flames flare upwards from a pencil-thin chimney at the Port Harcourt Refining Company, sending thick black smoke into the white clouds above Nigeria’s southern oil hub. On the ground, workers in boiler suits and hard hats inspect the tanks, valves and gauges around the metal pipes that stretch up, down and across the facility. In the hush of the control room, away from the hiss of steam and hum of heavy machinery, the refining process is monitored closely on a bank of computer screens.
PHRC boss Bafred Enjugu sees it as a sign that Nigeria — Africa’s biggest oil producer — is finally “domesticating” the refining of crude into products, thus improving its energy security and ending a reliance on costly imports. The talk is of job creation, national pride and the chance to help revive an economy badly hurt by the fall in global oil prices as well as providing fuel for the increasing demands of a growing population.
“To give up on the refineries is like giving up on Nigeria. That’s how strongly I believe about it and we can’t afford to do that,” the PHRC managing director told AFP. We can’t go home and tell our children that we have failed to provide the right platform to take off.”
The Port Harcourt refinery is Nigeria’s oldest, built in 1965, nine years after oil was found under the marshy soil and creeks of the delta, where the Niger river runs off into the Gulf of Guinea. Refineries in nearby Warri, and Kaduna in the north central region, were built in the years that followed, while a new plant was added to the same site in Port Harcourt in 1989. In recent years, however, the facilities have been more idle than operational. Read more