How we plan to end fuel scarcity, grow refining capacity –Senate

The Senate has assured Nigerians that the challenge of incessant fuel scarcity across the country would soon be a thing of the past as plans are in top gear to involve more private sector players in the construction of new refineries.

Senate Leader, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, gave the assurance in an interview on the sidelines of the Oil Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston Texas.

Bamidele said the Senate is working to ensure that more private sector players are licensed to own and operate refineries to support other smaller ones that are springing up in several parts of the country.

In addition to licensing new refinery operators, he said the Federal Government and Senate are working to ensure that the existing refineries are turned around with repairs and replacement of parts carried out where necessary.

He said the Senate has gotten assurance from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited that two of its refineries in Warri and Port Harcourt would come on stream before the end of year while the Kaduna refinery will become functional before the end of 2025.

Opeyemi maintained that the focus now is to ensure that the country is able to produce more oil in order to meet its Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production quota, assuring that achieving such milestone will provide more revenue for Government and halt lack and borrowings.

The Senator was upbeat that with the convergence of all these interventions from government and private sector players, the level of fuel imports would reduce drastically or be eliminated, leading to the drop in the price of petrol.

He explained that what drives pricing is the ability to meet demand in the face of every product finding its level and place in a free market.

Also speaking in a separate interview at OTC, the Chairman, Senate Committee of Downstream, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, said the last Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) that happened at the refineries was about 15 years which led to the comatose state of the facility.

He argued that the non-deregulation of the downstream sector has put undue pressure on NNPC Limited as the entire industry depends on it for its petroleum needs.

He pointed out that no country can meet its energy needs by having a single entity importing its petroleum product’s needs.

But in order to be self-sufficient, Ubah urged the Federal Government to create a cluster of five to eight modular refineries within the riverine communities.

“If we do that, it will become a very big leap. Why am I saying this? If you have 200 downstream players, you can divide them into groups of 10 or 15 each to one modular refinery as shareholders. They will be the ones to source for funding and bring those with the technical expertise to run the refineries.

So, whatever they produce would now be used to support downstream operations. Some of these owners will also invest in infrastructure which includes barges to bring the crude which is where the idea of setting it up in riverine communities comes in, trucks to transport refined products and even filling stations where the products would be sold.

This will eventually bring in money for Government because these entities will pay taxes brings. At the end of the day, this would become a win-win situation for both parties. But if we don’t do that, the downstream sector will still rely on a single importer which is already overburdened.”

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