Buhari Approved Licences For 65 Private Refineries

By Clara Nwachukwu

President Muhammadu Buhari has granted licences to 65 Nigerian companies to construct modular refineries.

The companies were selected from about 285 applications that were screened for the purpose.

Modular refineries are mini-refineries with capacities ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 barrels per day, bpd, which can be assembled and separated easily for enhanced performance and efficiency.

The decision to award Licence to Establish, LTE, which was taken within 10 days of his assuming office in June, may not be unconnected with his desire to see the increase in domestic refining capacity to meet local demand, thereby reducing huge import bills for subsidy.

Although the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, the industry regulator, feigned ignorance of the development, one of the beneficiary companies confirmed to Vanguard that the measure is also meant to cushion the impact of crashing oil prices at the international market.

The shock is not only in the period the approvals were given, but also in the numbers granted considering the fact that 18 LTEs were granted in 2002, but only one of them had come on stream with just 1,000 barrels per day, bpd, capacity.

The refinery is operated by Niger Delta Petroleum Resources, NDPR, which produces only automotive gas oil, AGO, popularly called diesel.

How approvals were granted

Chief Executive officer of the beneficiary company, who spoke in confidence, said the number was not unilateral, but “the mop up of all applications for private refining since 2007.”

He admitted that the process took a period of six months, dating back to former President, Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, adding “the process was rigorous as they looked at many issues including, land, investment, technical competence, design and a host of many others.”

He added that licences were offered on a two-year tenure, after which it will elapse, and that “the beauty of these awards is that there was no lobbying, as the whole exercise followed due process.”

In his opinion, there is nothing wrong with the high number of awardees, arguing that “for a country like Nigeria, the more in-country capacity, the better for us, because in a falling oil price regime, the more you refine, the more value you add and the more revenue you earn from your crude.”

DPR guidelines
A top management staff of DPR, when contacted, simply told Vanguard on telephone: “I am not aware of any such huge approval.”

When prodded further, he added: “What I know is that DPR recently released guidelines for the establishment of refineries, and we had road shows in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, to sensitise investors.”

Ordinarily, there are three levels of approval for setting up private greenfield (new) or modular refineries in the country.

They are Approval to Establish, LTE; Approval to Construct, ATC, and Licence to Operate, LTO.

An investor must overcome the requirements in each level of approval before proceeding to the next, as shown in the guidelines.
DPR had explained that the guidelines for the establishment of modular refineries in Nigeria was configured with the aim of shortening the approval time for licensing of refineries.

To woo investors to the project, DPR also reduced the licensing fee for new refineries from $1 million to $50,000. Government is desirous of refining at least 50 percent of its crude output in-country, not only to reduce import dependence, but also be an exporter of refined petroleum products.

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